Family violence statistics omitted

By Kiri Gillespie

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A decision to omit family violence statistics from the annual police crime statistics has been labelled "dumb" and left local social services fearing it will undo their good work.

But police say they are simply amending their recording processes to bring New Zealand in line with best international practice.

Family violence statistics were not publicly released with this year's crime statistics because they were not comparable with data collected in previous years, police said.

Originally if police attended a family violence-related incident, it was flagged as such and this was reflected in the annual statistics. But family violence-related offences would no longer be specified like this.

National Network of Stopping Violence (NNSV) national manager of advocacy Brian Gardner told the Bay of Plenty Times he was worried what the change would mean for communities like Tauranga.

"I think it is dumb. When you have a hidden issue like family violence that thrives in silence, at least make smart decisions," Mr Gardner said.

"Women are ashamed and men have an investment by not being found out. Anything we can do to make it more visible to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable is good."

Tauranga Living Without Violence and Maketu Health and Social Services both come under the NNSV's umbrella. Tauranga Moana Abuse Prevention Strategy (TMAPS) family violence co-ordinator Mandy Fisher said the police statistics supported campaigns such as It's Not OK and White Ribbon, Blow The Whistle on Violence and other initiatives such as TMAPS to bring family violence out from behind closed doors.

"I don't know what the benefits to the community would be by not making these statistics public knowledge," Ms Fisher said.

Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Hazel Hape said any statistics collated by the police helped them identify family violence trends and how best to address them.

"If they are not going to be releasing information, how are we supposed to support families?" Ms Hape said.

Ms Hape said although police announced a national decrease in recent family violence statistics, it was not consistent with what the refuge was experiencing locally.

Family violence in the Western Bay of Plenty in 2010 had increased 0.4 per cent compared to the year before. In 2009 had increased by 15.8 per cent.

Labour's police spokesman Kris Faafoi said serious questions needed to be answered about the Government's commitment to preventing family violence: "It's our duty to every family to continue to collect and collate them. How else can we determine whether programmes such as It's Not OK and White Ribbon are being effective?"

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police would continue to record family violence incidents and make those statistics publicly available as they always had done. However, it was not clear how family violence-related offences would be recorded and made public in the new system.

Mr Bush said last year's statistics were not comparable to data released in years before and there was no point in releasing statistics that did not bear any relation to figures from previous years.

"Statistics around family violence are complex. Our official statistics are the result of counting each offence as it is recorded. There is no offence of 'family violence'.

"No one is put before the courts to answer a charge of 'family violence'."

Mr Bush said people could be charged with various offences which could be considered family violence but might not necessarily be if the crime did not involve people who were related.

"The new reporting system is much more focused on capturing information about the relationship between the offender and the victim," Mr Bush said.

"This will give us data which can be provided as additional official statistics about family violence that will be publicly reported.

"An adjustment to how we record information does not affect our ability to understand what is happening with family violence or our ability to gauge the effects our interventions are having."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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