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Government introduces Bill to reform family violence laws

March 17, 2017 at 10:24 AM

*From the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse*

The Government has introduced its Bill to reform family violence laws.

The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill was introduced to Parliament today.

The Bill includes changes to both civil and criminal law. It amends the Domestic Violence Act and six other Acts.

The Q&A on the Bill says key changes include:

  • making the process of applying for protection orders easier, including approving providers to apply on behalf of victims who can’t apply themselves
  • intervening earlier to connect perpetrators and victims to services that can reduce the risk of violence. For example, perpetrators subject to a Police safety order will be able to be directed to a risk and needs assessment, and perpetrators who have protection orders against them can be referred, in the future, to a wider range of services to address their behaviour
  • better protecting children when making parenting arrangements in Family Court cases (for example, requiring the court to consider whether a protection order has been made or breached)
  • improving the identification and recording of family violence by flagging all cases that involve it when Police file charges. The flag will give judges more information about the cases in front of them and make it possible to better respond to family violence. It will also provide better information about family violence volumes and trends
  • creating three new offences of non-fatal strangulation, coercion to marry and assault on a family member
  • making offending while a protection order in place an aggravating factor at sentencing.
  • improving information sharing so agencies work together more effectively to identify people at risk of family violence and can intervene to prevent future violence.

It notes that during the drafting process, the following additional policy decisions were made:

  • the Domestic Violence Act will be renamed the ‘Family and Whānau Violence Act’. This change better illustrates the range of family relationships and ensures that family violence interventions can be more responsive to Māori needs and reflect tikanga
  • a new term “perpetrator” has been added to better recognise the harm family violence causes victims
  • non-contact includes digital communications from all internet sites, not just social media
  • respondents who wish to have contact with a person with a protection order must obtain that consent in writing. This will ensure there is no confusion about whether or not consent has been given. That consent to contact can be withdrawn in writing or by any other means
  • to protect those who are most vulnerable, approved providers will be able to apply for protection orders on behalf of children and adults who lack capacity to make the application themselves. This complements the decision around third party applications on behalf of those who cannot apply due to physical incapacity or fear
  • Family Court judges will be given additional powers to vary the terms of a parenting order to protect children where the circumstances require it. For example the court may vary child contact arrangements if a perpetrator fails to attend a programme
  • agencies will be able to request information from other agencies, as well as disclose information
  • Immigration New Zealand and Housing New Zealand Corporation have been added to the list of agencies covered by the definition of “Family Violence Agencies” for the purpose of sharing information.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said "The omnibus Family and Whānau Violence Bill is an important part of building a new way of dealing with family violence. It implements our Safer Sooner reforms announced in September 2016 aimed at breaking the pattern of family violence and reducing the harm and cost inflicted on those who suffer violence and on the wider New Zealand society."

The changes will cost approximately $132 million over the next four years. This includes an additional 66 police.

Media and responses to the announcement will be added to this page so please check back for updates.

Further information is available on the Ministry of Justice website.

Background information

In August 2015, Justice Minister Amy Adams released the public discussion document ‘Strengthening New Zealand’s legislative response to family violence’. About 500 submissions were received in response.

In September 2016, the Government announced the Safer Sooner package which outlined the policy decisions which form the basis of the Bill.

The legislative reform is part of the cross-government work programme on family and sexual violence.

Media

White Ribbon welcomes family violence change, Press release: White Ribbon, Scoop, 16.03.2017

Women’s Refuge welcomes Family and Whānau Violence Bill, Presse release: Women's Refuge, Scoop, 15.03.2017

‘Family and Whānau Violence’ bill introduced to parliament, Maori Television, 15.03.2017

Family violence overhaul desperately needed, Press Release: Green Party, Scoop, 15.03.2017

Overhaul of family violence laws goes before Parliament, Stuff, 15.03.2017

Agencies to apply for protection orders for victims who 'lack capacity’, NZ Herald, 15.03.2017

Major family violence laws introduced, Otago Daily Times, 15.03.2017



Category: Policy and Legislation