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Pilot provides Judges with defendant's family violence history

September 03, 2015 at 12:29 PM

Pilot provides Judges with defendant's family violence history

*From the New Zealand Violence Clearinghouse*

Judges making bail decisions will be provided with the defendant's family violence history under a new initiative being piloted in the Porirua and Christchurch District Courts.

The three month pilot, beginning 1 September 2015, will automatically provide Judges and Registrars with a Family Violence Summary Report (view sample) which details all the defendant's recorded family violence incidents, Police Safety Orders and Protection Orders, including any breaches.

Currently, Judges only receive family violence information when bail is opposed. The information does not always include whether previous offences were family violence related and is not always available to the Judge when the matter is first called.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said "Bail decisions are critical in family violence cases because the victim is well known to the perpetrator. In a random crime, there is some degree of anonymity, but in family violence, the perpetrator usually knows exactly where the victim lives, and potentially their daily schedule as well. Giving judges a clear picture of a defendant’s previous pattern of family violence offending when they are making bail decisions is another way to help protect victims from further harm."

The Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) welcomed the pilot. The FVDRC recommended providing better information about a defendant's family violence history in its fourth annual report. FVDRC Chair Julia Tolmie said, "Giving judges information about a defendant’s pattern of behaviour enables them to make safer bail decisions, as they will be aware of their Police family violence history. We know family violence is more likely to be a pattern of behaviour than a one-off incident, so it is very important judges have this information to factor into their bail decisions. Victim safety and protection should always be a paramount consideration and it is very pleasing to see the Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Police and judiciary working in partnership to develop the family violence summary report."

The pilot programme is a Ministry of Justice initiative, developed in partnership with the judiciary and Police, and is part of the cross-government work to reduce family violence. If successful, the pilot programme will be rolled out nationally in early 2016.

Justice Minister Amy Adams is expected to announce further changes to ensure judges in criminal and family jurisdictions are provided with comprehensive information to support family violence decision making.

Visit the NZFVC website for more information including media links