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Guarantees on family violence court advocates

16 December 2009
Media Statement

Labour seeks guarantees on family violence court advocates

The Government must spell out once and for all whether it plans to follow the recommendations of the experts and place family violence advocates in courts, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Annette King.

“Contrary to ridiculous claims by Tariana Turia, which I frankly resent due to the extensive focus I placed on family violence during my time as Justice Minister, I’m not asking these questions to score political points around family violence.

“Rather I’m trying to get to the bottom of why $3.4 million in funding set aside last year for Independent Victim Advocates in all Family Courts has been diverted to other initiatives, despite repeated calls for them from experts such as Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier,” Annette King says.

“Instead of launching vague and misguided attacks against me, Tariana Turia should do us all the courtesy of explaining why the advocates have been dropped and whether there is a plan to reinstate the initiative. It’s simple really.

“Ministry of Social Development Chief Executive Peter Hughes told the social services select committee this morning that initiative had been put on hold while the Ministry of Justice considered the overall role of court advocates.

“But this doesn’t answer the question family violence experts want to know – will advocates be put in the courts or not?

“Dame Margaret Bazley recommended in her recent review of legal aid that social agencies should be placed in the courts as they are an ideal "interception point". How much more advice does the Government need?

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“I also take issue with Tariana Turia suggesting I’m mischievously playing with statistics. I said I understood there had been 33 deaths as a result of domestic violence this year.

“The Minister came back with figures for the last financial year, rather than this calendar year – which suggests it is she, not I, playing games. I challenge her to release the figures for this calendar year so we can all be clear about the facts.

“I yesterday sought confirmation of the number of domestic violence deaths so far this year because I understand the number has doubled. If this is accurate, it’s very serious and further highlights why diverting funding from the court advocate initiative was a seriously backwards step.”

ENDS

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