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Chief Victims Advisor underpins family violence package

Hon Judith Collins

Minister of Justice

Hon Anne Tolley

Minister of Police

Minister of Corrections

Chief Victims Advisor underpins package to prevent family violence

A cross-government approach to prevent family violence proposes new Justice sector initiatives to keep women and children safe, Justice Minister Judith Collins and Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley announced today.

“The high rate of family violence in New Zealand is unacceptable – too many domestic violence victims continue to be re-victimised even when a protection order is in place,” Ms Collins says.

“This Government is committed to do more to end family violence. That’s why we’re proposing a suite of initiatives to increase the safety of family violence victims, reduce the risk that they will be re-victimised and make services more responsive to victims’ individual needs.”

The Justice sector’s stronger response to family violence links with Associate Minister for Social Development Tariana Turia’s work to promote community wide rejection of family violence. Together with the Government’s focus on vulnerable children, it will help future generations of children to grow up without family violence.

The Government has identified four key Justice sector action areas to: better protect victims of family violence; improve victims’ experience in the justice system; support judicial decision-making in cases involving domestic violence; and ensure domestic violence legislation is modern and fit for purpose.

The proposals to help achieve these include:
· Establishing a Chief Victims Advisor to the Minister of Justice to advise on the needs and views of victims of crime, including domestic violence victims.
· Testing an intensive case management service to provide specialist support for domestic violence victims at high risk of serious harm or death.
· Establishing a nationwide home safety service to help victims who want to leave a violent relationship. The service will offer practical support such as safety planning, strengthening doors and windows and installing alarms.
· Reviewing the Domestic Violence Act 1995 to ensure it keeps victims safe and holds offenders to account.
· Exploring the possibility of a conviction disclosure scheme, which may allow a person to be told whether their partner has a history of violence.
· Trialling mobile safety alarms with GPS technology for victims, so they can notify Police of an emergency, and their location.
· Introduce legislation to change the Sentencing Act, which will allow courts to stipulate GPS monitoring of high-risk domestic violence offenders who can’t currently have this condition imposed upon them.
Both Ministers say giving Judges more powers to order GPS monitoring for offenders will help keep more victims safe. 24-hour monitoring of the most serious offenders means an alarm will be raised if they go near an exclusion zone, while it also lets offenders know that there is a record of where they are and where they have been.
“GPS alarms for victims can help inform Police where a victim is if they are at risk, so they can take action,” Mrs Tolley says.

Mrs Tolley says technology is continuing to evolve, and the Government and supporting agencies are doing all we can to get the full benefits from it.

“Following the rollout of smartphones to the frontline, Police will also be exploring how technology could be used to gather video evidence which could then be used in courts.”

The Government will also explore whether prosecutors should be able to invite the judge or jury to draw an adverse inference when a defendant refuses to give evidence in sexual violence cases. Current law only allows the defendant, the defendant’s lawyer or the Judge to comment on a defendant’s failure to give evidence.

Ms Collins says officials will continue to work on the details of the proposals, provide the Government with more advice and launch trials over the coming year.

“Improving safety and support for family violence victims will reduce violent crime and re-offending – and most importantly, it will make a big difference to the lives of victims and their children,” Ms Collins says.


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