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Recommendations would make the law much fairer for victims

Law Commission recommendations would make the law much fairer for victims who kill their abusers

The Law Commission is recommending a number of changes that would make the law much fairer for victims of family violence who kill their abusers.

Shine’s Executive Director, Jane Drumm, says, “We are very happy that the Law Commission is recommending that self-defence should apply when a defendant is responding to family violence, even when the threat is not imminent. The reality is that for someone who has feared being injured or killed by their partner for many months or years, that the threat to their life may be perceived as imminent at all times. If a victim has had a bad experience with police or has told someone else about the abuse and not been helped or not been believed, she may feel like the only way ‘out’ is to kill herself or kill him. She may believe that he will kill her if she doesn’t kill him first, and she may not be wrong.”

Shine does not condone nor encourage victims to kill their abusers. If and when someone wants to leave an abusive relationship, we will do our best, working closely with other key agencies like Police and Court Victim Advisers, to help that person leave safely.

“We are also very pleased that the Law Commission is recommending continuing education to support an improved understanding of family violence among judges, lawyers and Police. New Zealand is now far behind other western countries in requiring regular training for the criminal justice professionals who deal with family violence cases. Without this training, many judges, lawyers and police officers make poor, unsafe and even dangerous decisions because they don’t understand the complex dynamics of family violence, and in particular of intimate partner violence,” says Drumm.

The Law Commission recommendations include:

1. Continued education to support an improved understanding of family violence among judges, lawyers and Police.

2. Reforms to the Crimes Act 1961 to clarify that self-defence may apply when a defendant is responding to family violence, even when the threat is not imminent.

3. Amendments to the Evidence Act 2006 to identify the kind of family violence evidence that may be relevant to claims of self-defence by victims of family violence.

4. Amendments to the Sentencing Act 2002 to ensure consistent consideration of a history of family violence as a mitigating factor in sentencing.


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