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Law Commission Report on victims who commit homicide

May 13, 2016 at 10:02 AM

Understanding Family Violence: Reforming the Criminal Law Relating to Homicide


The New Zealand Law Commission has released its report 'Understanding Family Violence: Reforming the Criminal Law Relating to Homicide'. The Law Commission makes recommendations for changes to the criminal law to better serve victims of family violence who kill their abusers. 

New Zealand has the highest reported rate of family violence in the developed world. Half of all homicides in this country happen within families and most occur within intimate partner relationships. Overwhelmingly, intimate partner homicides are committed by men, who have a history of using violence to exercise control over their partner.

By contrast, it is in only a small number of cases – less than five per cent of all homicides in New Zealand – that victims of family violence kill their abusers.  Most are women who have endured years of trauma and abuse. 

The Law Commission has found that fair treatment of these cases requires deeper knowledge of the nature and dynamics of family violence. Otherwise, the circumstances can be misunderstood, or the history of violence minimised, which can lead to unjust legal outcomes for these defendants.


The Law Commission recommends:

  • Continued education to support an improved understanding of family violence among judges, lawyers and Police.
  • Reforms to the Crimes Act 1961 and Evidence Act 2006 to improve the accessibility of self-defence to victims of family violence.
  • Reforms to the Sentencing Act 2002 to promote consistent consideration of a history of family violence as a mitigating factor in sentencing.
  • That the Ministry of Justice consider how the “three strikes” legislation applies to victims of family violence who commit homicide and how it could be amended to allow judges to impose a sentence other than life imprisonment in deserving cases.


Read the summary here

Read the full report here


Related media:

Abused may get new self-defence law - Radio NZ

Law reforms could improve self defence rights of domestic violence victims - Newstalk ZB

Changing rights of abuse victims won't fix our domestic violence problem - lawyer - One News