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Family Violence Courts Evaluations

Hon Rick Barker
Minister for Courts

12 August 2008
Media Statement
Family Violence Courts Evaluations

Minister for Courts, Rick Barker, has welcomed the findings of research conducted on Manukau and Waitakere Family Violence Courts. The Ministry of Justice released the evaluation reports today.

“The Family Violence Courts, a judicial initiative, is a constructive improvement in the Justice system to assist in dealing with domestic violence in New Zealand. This evaluation will help to further improve the ongoing effectiveness of the Courts,” Mr Barker said.

The Ministry of Justice has been making ongoing improvements to the operation of these courts. Specifically, the evaluation’s findings validate the work the Ministry is doing to further improve how Family Violence Courts operate. Such work includes Family Violence Court training for court staff and key stakeholders, developing National Operating Guidelines and involvement in developing the new Independent Victim Advocates role for Family Violence Courts. In addition, the Government has provided funding for non-mandated counselling and rehabilitation programmes.

Internationally, Family Violence Courts have been set up in response to recognition across communities, governments and the judiciary that family violence requires a different approach to other forms of violence. Because the relationships are close and personal, the issues are complex and often the parties expect the close relationships to continue, but they want the violence to stop. The Justice system needs to provide for more complex situations and for issues to be addressed quickly. This is where the Family Violence Courts have been an improvement.

New Zealand's Family Violence Courts are a judicially-led response to community and government concerns about the extent and impact of family violence on our society. New Zealand’s approach shares many common themes with overseas jurisdictions, such as Government agency and community collaboration, dedicated judiciary and court days, promotion of victim safety and offender accountability.

“Family Violence Courts seek to provide a more holistic response to family violence than that currently available in the conventional court setting,” Mr Barker said.

“As our approach to these courts evolve, evaluations such as this assist in identifying what is working and what can be improved. We will continually look at how further improvements to Family Violence Courts can be made over time.”


Family Violence Court evaluations - background information for media

On the request of the Chief District Court Judge, the Ministry of Justice conducted an evaluation of the processes at the Manukau Family Violence Court during 2007 and 2008.

Massey University researchers conducted an evaluation of Waitakere Family Violence Court during this same time period.

These evaluations examined the extent to which the Waitakere and Manukau Family Violence Courts were achieving their objectives.

The evaluations have now been released, including a report summarising the key findings of both the Ministry of Justice and Massey evaluations.

Family Violence Courts – background information for media

Family Violence Courts are a judicial initiative operating in the District Court jurisdiction, and is supported by the Ministry of Justice.

The Waitakere Family Violence Court began in 2001 and the Manukau Family Violence Court in 2005. A further four Family Violence Courts have recently been established in Auckland, Lower Hutt, Porirua and Masterton District Courts.

Family Violence Courts seek to provide a more timely response to family violence, enhance safety for victims and families, and encourage offender accountability.

The Family Violence Courts established in New Zealand have the same powers and resources as other Criminal Courts and are about re-ordering existing court resources to get a better outcome for families affected by family violence.

Family Violence Courts have dedicated people working to provide support and help to those going through the Family Violence Court process. This includes Judges, Police Prosecutors, Community Probation Officers, Victim Advisors, court staff, and a variety of community support services.

Another objective of the Family Violence Court is to minimise delays in the resolution of family violence cases. By scheduling cases involving family violence to be heard on one day of the week in the District Court, family violence matters are dealt with in a timely way, with specialist support and education services made available to the both the victim and the offender on that same day.

Family Violence Courts help victims of family violence by working with them and other agencies to make sure that the victim and/or their children are safe and get the right advice and support. There are a number of support services available that can help victims of family violence through the Family Violence Court process. Victim Advisors are also available at the Family Violence Court and provide a free and confidential service.

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