Judith Collins on Q+A – Sunday 13th July
Justice Minister Judith Collins on Q+A – Sunday 13th July:
Justice Minister Judith Collins told TV One’s Q+A programme that Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully are ‘very angry’ over the handling of the Malaysian diplomat and allegations of sexual assault.
“I don’t think there's a New Zealander who is proud of the way in which this matter was handled, and certainly the Minister and the Prime Minister are ropeable about what has occurred to the victim and they are also extremely concerned that this has not been dealt with in the way that it should have been.”
Ms Collins says an inquiry will include Mr McCully’s actions as well.
“Of course it's going to, he'll be interviewed, he's expecting to be interviewed, and also any communications through to his office will be obviously shown.”
When asked by Rachel Smalley if the penalties for domestic violence are tough enough, Minister Collins says she is looking at another law around ‘attempted strangulation.’
“So when we've got people who are being strangled, and partly strangled in their home that is an indicator that the person who's doing it is actually going to go on and kill them, and we need to treat that much more seriously than we do.”
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Interviewed by RACHEL SMALLEY
SUSAN Over the past week both National and Labour have launched new initiatives to tackle domestic violence. The stats say it all. Half of all our homicides are related to domestic violence. That is 14 women, 7 men and 8 children killed by a member of their family every year. Half of all violent offences in our courts relate to domestic violence. Three out of five victims are threatened by their partner more than once. So National has a new plan, will it work? Rachel's with Justice Minister, Judith Collins.
RACHEL Justice Minister, Judith Collins, thank you for joining us this morning. So the stats are out there. Half of all homicides are the result of domestic violence. Are you shocked, surprised, disappointed, that you're most likely if you're going to be murdered in this country, you're most likely to be murdered in your own home?
JUDITH Well I'm not shocked by it, because I have been previously a Minister of Police, and I'm fully aware of what Police have to face whenever they deal with domestic violence. So they're dealing with a very volatile situation where there are weapons available in the kitchen and elsewhere, and they know that half of all homicides will be from domestic violence. And that is not a new statistic, it has been around for a very long time.
RACHEL So that said are you disappointed that in six years of government National hasn’t been able to bring about change with regards to this?
JUDITH Well I think what we do know is this, is that domestic violence is something which we used to not talk about. When I was growing up nobody talked about it, now at least we do talk about it. But I'd also say too is that quite a lot of this domestic violence is in families where it is repeat domestic violence and that’s the hardest to deal with. So we've got 6% of victims experience 54% of the crimes, and that’s the toughest.
RACHEL Are you disappointed the government hasn’t brought about change?
JUDITH Well we are bringing about change, for instance …
RACHEL The figures don’t suggest that.
JUDITH Well actually it takes a while to bring about cultural change, and what we're seeing is a tremendous amount of work that’s going on between the Ministry of Social Development, Justice and Police.
RACHEL There are some 2000 breaches of protection orders, and I think one of the most horrific that springs to mind is that of Edward Livingstone in Dunedin who killed his own two children. Are they worth the paper they're written on, Protection Orders, they're not are they?
JUDITH They are if the person who's subject to them respects court orders.
RACHEL There are 2000 breaches.
JUDITH Well actually the vast majority of people who are subject to protection orders will respect them, and having said that Rachel, a protection order is given on the papers so that the person who's subject to it doesn’t even get to defend themselves in the first instance. But they will not stop someone who is determined to kill and what they do need to do is get jail time, and a third of them are now getting jail time, and half of them are getting some custodial sentence.
RACHEL Part of your Preventing Family Violence package focuses on making high risk victims safer. So putting locks on doors, reinforcing window locks, putting alarms on women. In effect you're caging these women, and the men who are beating them up walk around fearless and in public.
JUDITH No, not at all, in fact the men in those cases are quite often themselves caged in prison. But in these circumstances we think it is really important for women to be able to live their lives with their families.
RACHEL Well they can't if they're having to put extreme locks on their windows and doors...
JUDITH Actually Rachel I don’t know about you but I live in a home with locks on my doors and with a monitored burglar alarm. That’s the sort of thing technology…
RACHEL This is New Zealand though Minister, we shouldn’t have to be doing that from people that we know. Locking people we know out of our homes.
JUDITH Actually Rachel I thought that in the late 80s until we got burgled three times. So these days that’s what we do, and that’s the sort of technology that can give people a tremendous amount of comfort. Now you and I can afford to do that ourselves, but actually many of the women we're talking about they can't afford to, and this is …
RACHEL That doesn’t stop violence though does it?
JUDITH Well it actually stops someone coming in, and the other thing is alarms for women, GPS monitoring alarms for victims, to be able to choose to be part of that sort of trial, so that wherever they are they can set off an alarm and the Police know exactly where they are.
RACHEL But there's a man in front of them who's about to beat them again.
JUDITH Well actually what it means is that that man's going to end up being arrested and hopefully put in jail.
RACHEL Does this justice system get domestic violence? You know judges, they're largely men, do they understand domestic violence?
JUDITH Well actually in my experience the judges in New Zealand try very very hard to deal with this issue. But let's put it this way, judges don’t cause domestic violence, Police don’t cause domestic violence. Violent offenders cause domestic violence, and if you're going to look at some of the worst offenders in domestic violence you start looking at those involved in the gang culture. Which is why we have 6% of victims getting 54% of the crime.
RACHEL But we also have 34% of Pakeha committing this, white middle class men. This is not an ethnic issue.
JUDITH Well actually Rachel I have to tell you, is that gangs are not just an ethnic issue, and if you thought that then I'm sorry …
RACHEL No I'm not suggesting that is, but there's 36% Maori, there's 34% Pakeha commit domestic violence. It's not an ethnic or socio economic issue, it's a middle class issue as well.
JUDITH Actually domestic violence goes right throughout society. And as I've said before is that when I was growing up and when you were growing up people didn’t talk about it, and now they do know about it.
RACHEL Are the penalties tough enough?
JUDITH I think they are in terms of things like if someone is murdered they end up with the same penalty as anybody else. Serious domestic violence includes things like grievous bodily harm, attempted murder. All those things the same penalties. But if you're looking at whether or not male assaults female, which is the normal charge on a normal sort of – I hate to say it mid-level domestic violence charge, I don’t know that is taken seriously enough, which is why I'm looking at another crime around attempted strangulation. Because that seems to be one of the biggest predicators of what actually is going to happen next…
RACHEL What do you mean, so that there's a lot of women men attempt to strangle them?
JUDITH They do.
RACHEL And so you want to bring in a new law?
JUDITH Well at the moment that’s only treated as either – as normally as a male assaults female, and it doesn’t give judges who are looking at these cases…
RACHEL So what are you going to do about it?
JUDITH Well what's one of the suggestions from the Family Violence Group that’s been looking at it, is that we actually bring in a new law around crime around attempted strangulation. So when we've got people who are being strangled, and partly strangled in their home that is an indicator that the person who's doing it is actually going to go on and kill them, and we need to treat that much more seriously than we do.
RACHEL Why hasn’t the National government given more money to Women's Refuge?
JUDITH Well Women's Refuge is one of the NGOs that deal with women's…
RACHEL It's THE …
JUDITH Well actually Rachel you're wrong.
RACHEL There's a vast number of women who go to Women's Refuge.
JUDITH Actually Rachel you're wrong.
RACHEL No I'm not Minister.
JUDITH You are wrong.
RACHEL When women don’t have faith in the justice system they go to Women's Refuge, they turn up on the front door know that they're going to let them in.
JUDITH Rachel, only some women go to Women's Refuge. A lot of women actually seek protection orders and they have the partner excluded…
JUDITH But Rachel that’s not true. What we have is quite a lot of people who are out there working in this area. We gave 70 million dollars last year to domestic violence in the NGO sector. That’s in addition to pretty much half of police resources to a whole range of people. Now I'm not going to give you the whole list cos it came through MSD but there's about there's about 40 different providers.
RACHEL Why did you freeze the funding though for Women's Refuge, it doesn’t make sense, they are an organisation that is on the coal face.
JUDITH Well Rachel, Women's Refuges, there are many of them in New Zealand. Some of them about 42 of them, are with the collective which is the one that’s saying its funds are being frozen. Quite a few refuges have left that collective because of various reasons, and actually I think you need to understand that the collective is not the only provider of services in this area.
RACHEL Have you consulted them at all? Have you spoken with them before you…
JUDITH Actually I spoke with Women's Refuge, Heather Henare, a few weeks ago, when she told me that their situation was, they had a lot of gang women coming to them, and that they’ve been able to organise some sort of arrangement with the President of the local Mongrel Mob to allow their women to come to the Refuge when the violence got too bad. But there's a lot of women who are going to say that they don’t want to go to that sort of place, and they need to have options. That’s why there's lots of options out there.
RACHEL What message has MFAT sent to young men do you think when they have dealt with serious allegations here with such flippancy. What message does that send do you think to New Zealand men in this country?
JUDITH Well actually the person we're talking about, the alleged offender, is not a New Zealand man for a start.
RACHEL We're not talking about him, we're talking about the way the government dealt with it.
JUDITH Certainly he's not young. Well I think that the inquiry will start to show us quite a lot about what's been going on, and I'd also say this, is that for us to try and predict what the inquiry's going to show would be quite unfair.
RACHEL I'm just suggesting the flippancy with which this was dealt with. If that’s happening at the top of the pyramid is it any surprise that at the bottom you get cases like Roast Busters? You know the trickle-down effect.
JUDITH Well Roast Busters happened before this, so it's hard to say that it's the result of it.
RACHEL No I'm not saying it's the result, I'm saying the trickle-down message to society.
JUDITH But Rachel, I don’t think there's a New Zealander who is proud of the way in which this matter was handled, and certainly the Minister and the Prime Minister are ropeable about what has occurred to the victim and they are also extremely concerned that this has not been dealt with in the way that it should have been.
RACHEL Accountable too? You said they're ropeable.
JUDITH Well they're certainly very angry about it.
RACHEL Do you think the inquiry should actually look at Murray McCully's actions as well?
JUDITH Well they will of course because … actually Rachel you shouldn’t believe everything the Labour Party tells you. Of course it's going to, he'll be interviewed, he's expecting to be interviewed, and also any communications through to his office will be obviously shown.
RACHEL Are you still interested in the leadership of the party?
JUDITH Oh look I'm not interested in anything other than helping the current government get through to the next election, and getting past it.
RACHEL The last time I spoke to you and you said to me Rachel I don’t go to parliament just to eat my lunch.
JUDITH Well I certainly don’t, I'm here to work and work very hard for the people of New Zealand, and that’s what I do.
RACHEL Alright, Justice Minister, Judith Collins, thank you.