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Alarming Proportion of Domestic Abuse is Serious

Alarming Proportion of Domestic Abuse in New Zealand is Serious and Severe
How many more children like JJ need to die before New Zealand treats domestic abuse as a serious crime? Joel Loffley was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend’s 2 year old son JJ Lawrence. Loffley had a history of seriously abusing his girlfriend, JJ’s mother.

Data from the first three months of Police’s new violence risk assessment tool confirms Shine’s understanding from experience that an alarming proportion of domestic abuse in New Zealand is serious and severe.

Police recently introduced a new model of responding to family violence that focuses on intimate partner violence, because these victims face a higher risk of revictimisation than other victims of violence. Intimate partner violence comprises about 70% of the family violence incidents Police respond to.

Police responding to the most serious IPV incidents are required to use the ODARA (Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment) tool. ODARA’s qualifying criteria is the use of physical or sexual violence, and/or a credible threat of harm with a weapon in hand in the presence of the victim – a very high threshold. The number of cases requiring staff to use ODARA in the first three months of its introduction was 15.7 percent of family violence cases—within the range of what was expected.

A higher ODARA score (out of 13) predicts a higher risk of recidivism, and that further offending will happen sooner, more frequently and be more severe. When the tool was used in Canada, where it was developed, only 7% of people screened had a risk score of 7 and higher -- meaning they have a 70% or greater risk of reoffending.

In the first three months of the use of ODARA in NZ, 40% of people screened were scored 7 or higher.

There is clearly an alarming difference between New Zealand and Canada in the proportion of serious, violent domestic abuse offenders.

According to Shine’s Executive Director Jane Drumm,

“This confirms what Shine knows to be true from experience – that a very large percentage of family violence cases, involve very serious violence and serious risk to the victim of injury or death.

“Shine and other specialist, frontline family violence service providers are simply not resourced to respond to the huge amounts of serious violence that we see.”

Shine supports Police use of ODARA, as it gives Police and the community better information about offenders and their risk of reoffending. Shine recommends that all organisations working to address the issue focus scarce resources on offenders who are most likely to reoffend, and on victims who are at highest risk of revictimisation.

However, much still needs to be done to improve the criminal justice system response to family violence.

Jane says,

“Family violence arrests have markedly decreased over the last couple of years. Even when offenders are arrested and charged, they are treated very leniently by the courts – most are discharged without conviction if they complete a stopping violence programme.

“In most cases of family violence that go before the courts, there is simply no accountability for the offender. Quite clearly, many of these offenders are people the entire community has good cause to be extremely concerned about.”

Shine would very much like to see police using ODARA in the courts to oppose bail, at sentencing and at parole hearings, as they are planning to do.


Shine is New Zealand’s leading provider of services working to stop domestic abuse. We help woman, children and men get out of the cycle of family violence and give the chance of a better, happier, safer future.

More background on ODARA:
ODARA is an internationally recognised, evidence-based risk assessment tool that has been through scientific development, testing and validation. The ODARA score has been used evidentially in Canada in their criminal courts.
ODARA consists of 13 indicators, each with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. The higher the ODARA score, the higher the recidivism risk. The score also gives an indication of how soon, frequent and severe future violence is likely to be. Indicators cover family violence history; criminal history; presence of threat and confinement (any act physically preventing the victim from leaving the scene); children in the relationship; substance abuse; barriers to support; and victim's views on the potential for future violence.

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