Notice: Signed undertakings v protection orders
Eastern Women’s Refuge is issuing a safety notice to all women applying for Protection Orders in the Auckland area.
It has come to the attention of the Refuge that many family lawyers are recommending to their clients to sign an undertaking of non violence, as opposed to continuing the application process for protection orders, particularly in the cases of pacific and migrant women and women whose partners are contesting the necessity of such an order.
“This raises a considerable concern for us in terms of ongoing safety of women and children’ states Rhonda Cox-Nissen of Eastern Refuge.
‘What women aren’t having adequately explained to them by their legal representation is that signing a document like this does not legally protect them from ongoing violence and harassment. Ultimately it is just a piece of paper and a very loose promise. ‘
The refuge has had a number of incidences where women have come to them seeking support regarding this kind of advice from lawyers.
‘Ultimately many of the women who have consulted with us have felt under duress to sign an undertaking, just to get the process over and done with, or because they don’t fully understand the potentially unsafe consequences of signing such an undertaking. ‘
Police have no authority to act on an undertaking because it is not legally recognized and can only issue a Place of Safety Order in the instance that they have insufficient evidence to arrest but have determined that the victim/s require safety, support and space. The purpose of PSO’s are to ensure that victims of Domestic Violence can seek support from community groups and agencies in order to protect themselves and their children ‘
‘Our concern is that victims may be under the false impression that they are legally protected. An undertaking provides no legal protection or safety ‘ says Rhonda Cox-Nissen.
‘We don’t for one second believe that undertakings keep women and children safe and do not recommend that women sign undertakings, without seeking support and advice from a community agency.’
If you need support and advice regarding protection orders, PSO’s or are feeling pressured to sign an undertaking, Womens Refuge urge you to contact your local refuge, which can be found in the white pages of your phone book. All information and advice is confidential and free. Or alternatively contact the Auckland regional 24 hour crisis line on 0800 REFUGE.