Refuge boss queries protection order

By Amy McGillivray

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Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angela Warren-Clark questioned whether a new law to protect victims will actually work.
Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angela Warren-Clark questioned whether a new law to protect victims will actually work.

A Bay women's refuge manager doubts whether a new law aimed at keeping domestic violence victims safe will work.

Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angela Warren-Clark said there were still unanswered questions about the Victims' Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill, which passed its final reading in Parliament on Tuesday night.

The bill allows victims of violent or sexual crimes to apply for a non-contact order to reduce the risk of unwanted contact from offenders.

The new orders could be applied to an offender who had been sentenced to more than two years' jail and could prohibit the offender contacting the victim.

Ms Warren-Clark said she did not think most of the families she worked with would qualify for a non-contact order as a two-year prison sentence was a high threshold.

"In the past we have often been dismayed at the low conviction rates and insignificant sentences given for using violence against women and children in the criminal court."

Ms Warren-Clark also warned the orders would only be useful if properly enforced.

"Protection orders provide good safety mechanisms for whanau but only if the family uses their order and breaches the perpetrator, the police act on each and every breach - arresting not warning - and then these perpetrators are held accountable by our judges with sentences which are monitored by the Department of Corrections."

Breaches of orders would be punished by up to six months' imprisonment or a fine of up to $5000. If an offender was convicted of contravening an order at least twice in a three-year period, they could be imprisoned for up to two years.

In a press release, Justice Minister Judith Collins said the Government was committed to putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.

"Victims of serious crime deserve peace of mind, so they can recover and move on with their lives," Ms Collins said.

"Introducing non-contact orders is one more way to ensure victims feel safe and protected from further offending."

Mrs Collins did not respond to questions put to her by the Bay of Plenty Times.

Before the change, protection orders were only available if a victim had been in a domestic relationship with the offender or if a victim was being harassed by an offender and parole conditions were also limited to six months beyond the statutory end date of the sentence.

The Ministry of Justice estimated about 10 orders would be issued each year but expected the number to be higher in the first year because of the number of pre-existing eligible victims who may wish to seek an order.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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