Domestic Violence Act Report
The Domestic Violence Act has helped protect thousands of victims from domestic violence and remains a strong framework for tackling this persistent social evil, Justice Minister Phil Goff and Courts Minister Matt Robson said today.
Releasing the report of an independent two-year study of how the Domestic Violence Act 1995 operates, the Ministers said the research showed that the legislation enjoyed overwhelming support from victims, abusers, lawyers, court staff and judges.
"It also pointed to a number of areas where the implementation of the Act can be improved.
"The Act substantially broadened the range of people able to gain protection from domestic violence and widened the definition of domestic violence to include physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
"As a result people who previously had few places to turn have been able to get help from the courts. Since the Act came into force, 28,755 applications for protection under the Act have been dealt with by the Family Court. This has resulted in 42,959 children being protected by the Act, 44 percent of whom are under 5 years of age.
"The Act also made provision for rehabilitation by requiring those who have been violent to attend programmes to address their violence, and by offering free court-approved programmes for victims and their children.
"However, the research shows that only 36% of those referred to stopping violence programmes actually completed these programmes.
"This rate is unacceptable and needs to be vastly improved. More emphasis is now being to be placed on pursuing prosecution in cases of non-attendance of programmes.
“The research also pointed to the low take-up of free programmes for victims and their children. More work will be done to encourage greater participation in these very valuable programmes.
"The speed with which a protection order can be put in place and the simplification of the application process are both seen by the research as significant benefits for victims. The evaluation found that 90% of cases were assigned a defended hearing date within the required 42 days. So there is some room for improvement in complying with the 42-day requirement set out in the Act.
"The Department for Courts and the Ministry of Justice have set up a joint working party to address the findings of the research so that necessary improvements can be made.
"The report released today is one study in a series designed to achieve the best possible outcome from the legislation. Others are looking at evaluating the effectiveness of domestic violence programmes for respondents, adult protected person and for children and are due for completion between the end of 2000 and mid-2001.
"The process of improvement won't stop until it is clear that we have the most effective legislation to deal successfully with domestic violence in our community," the Ministers concluded.