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Law reforms could improve self defence rights of domestic violence victims

Author
Newstalk ZB staff,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 May 2016, 2:50PM
Photo / NZ Herald

Law reforms could improve self defence rights of domestic violence victims

Author
Newstalk ZB staff,
Publish Date
Thu, 12 May 2016, 2:50PM

UPDATED 5.58PM The Justice Minister is open to targeted approaches being used when it comes to criminal cases involving family violence victims.

The Law Commission is proposing that in family violence cases a person should be able to claim self defence when a victim kills their abuser, even when they've responded to a threat that wasn't imminent.

LISTEN ABOVE: Criminal defence lawyer Marie Dyhrberg speaks to Rachel Smalley about the recommendations

Lead Commissioner Dr Wayne Mapp said the proposal recognises the unique nature of family violence. He said if the change is accepted by Parliament, it'll be better for victims.

"We're improving the law of self-defence so it better protects women who are suffering extreme violence from abusive partners," Mr Mapp said.

"The current law does not properly recognise the situation of women in long-term violence, extreme violence, and they end up killing their abuser just to save themselves."

Justice Minister Amy Adams said it is possible to create provisions to cater for specific types of offending and the Government is already considering this in a family violence context.

"Sometimes a blanket approach works and other times a targeted response is appropriate. It really is case by case," she said.

But Ms Adams said the proposal is a significant departure from the law of self defence as it currently stands, and needs careful thought and discussion.

"There are very real issues that I don't think the law necessarily deals with very well, but to remove the requirement for imminence of the threat is a significant change, and if we don't do it very carefully it could potentially have significant consequences."

Green MP Jan Logie sees the recommendation as very encouraging, as it's an area of law that's needed to be looked at for a long time.

She said we have higher conviction rates here than comparable countries overseas, for women who kill their abusive partners.

"And I think that it's just patently unjust that women who have been tortured for years, whose only way out that they've been able to find has been killing their partner, is then treated so harshly in our courts," she said.

However, a criminal defence lawyer is warning a change to self defence laws in family violence situations could set a high evidential burden.

Marie Dyhrberg told Rachel Smalley often those in violent relationships are very isolated.

"The isolation keeps them away from the doctors, it keeps them away from family support, it keeps them away from refuges - all of those places, and then of course you have an evidential problem."

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