Verve Article - October 2016

Saturday, October 1, 2016

National stepping up to protect families

Strong families are the bedrock of a successful society.  Most importantly, people should feel safe at home with their family. 

For most of us, this is the reality.  Sadly, for some of us, it is not. 

For some people home is a place of terror.

Half of New Zealand’s homicides are family violence related.  Last year, Police responded to 110,000 family violence call-outs.  There were children present at nearly two-thirds of these call-outs.

We need to do better.  And we are determined to see improvement.

The National-led Government knows that to help solve long-standing and deep social problems we have to confront difficult and distressing issues.

So we are making sweeping changes to family violence legislation.  The package changes both civil and criminal laws, and provides system-level changes to support new ways of working.

Across 16 different portfolios, Ministers and departments are working together to redesign the way our system prevents and responds to family violence.   In the name of privacy we have, over the decades, erected too many barriers to effective intervention.

We’re going to ensure all family violence is clearly identified and risk information is properly shared. We’ll put the safety of victims at the heart of bail decisions.

We want people to be able to get help without having to go to court – which can be slow, expensive, daunting and in some instances too big-a-step for someone who just wants the violence to stop and doesn’t want someone they love put in prison. 

Our changes include creating new offences for strangulation, coercion to marry, and assault on a family member.  We will also make offending while on a Protection Order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing.

It’s going to be easier to apply for Protection Orders and we’ll enable approved non-governmental organisations to apply on a victim’s behalf. 

We will improve protection and care for children by better provision for the rights of children under Protection Orders, aligning Care of Children orders to the family violence regime, and trialling supervised handovers.