Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Protection order breaches cause terror for victims

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Protection order breaches in the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel 2005-2015

One breach: 537 people • Two or more breaches: 410 people • Total number of breaches: 1776 - Ministry of Justice
Angela Warren-Clark, manager of Tauranga Women's Refuge, says all protection order breaches should be treated seriously. Photo/file
Angela Warren-Clark, manager of Tauranga Women's Refuge, says all protection order breaches should be treated seriously. Photo/file

Domestic violence victims are living in terror as hundreds of abusers breach their protection orders - including one local person who breached 13 times.

Statistics provided by the Ministry of Justice showed 947 people in the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel region breached their protection order a total of 1776 times from 2005 to 2015. One person clocked up 13 breaches.

Angela Warren-Clark, Tauranga Women's Refuge manager, said repeated breaches were "horrific" for the applicant, who would be living in a state of fear.

She would like to see all breaches treated seriously in court during sentencing, even if they appeared minor.

"These woman go through all the angst and fear and difficulty of calling the police every time he does something, then in sentencing, it can be a minor sentence. Often behind that is an utterly unremitting sense of terror.

"These women often move homes and won't tell the partner where she is. She will come home one day and there will be flowers on the doorstep, or a message saying 'I love the camellia bush'. That can strike terror into their lives."

Mary Beresford-Jones, Tauranga Living Without Violence general manager, said protection orders were important for protecting victims of family violence, holding perpetrators accountable and making sure they got the help they needed to change.

However, the number of breaches raised the question of how effective they were and whether they helped keep women and children safe.

"Living through intimate partner violence has meant years of control and threats. When the ability to control her starts to dwindle, the actions increase to regain control, and the most effective way to control someone is to make them scared of you.

"On top of that, the respondent has repeatedly told her what he will do to her, and/or the children, should she ever leave him. In this context, a minor breach becomes terrifying and he knows that."

Mrs Beresford-Jones said all breaches had to be treated equally.

Tauranga Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Ken Evans said the number of breaches showed the system was failing.

"For someone to breach 13 times, to be able to do that is unbelievably bad. These people deserve our society's protection. If it's not working with the current system, it needs to be beefed up."

Bay Of Plenty Police district prevention manager Inspector Stephen Bullock said protection order breaches were treated seriously by police and investigated thoroughly.

"However, part of the ongoing challenge for all agencies is breaking the cycle, as family violence is rarely a one-off event. Protection orders are one of many tools available to reduce the harm caused by family violence."

Justice Minister Amy Adams said in 2014 more than 1900 people were convicted of breaching a protection order. More than 600 of these people were sentenced to a term of imprisonment - up from about 350 10 years ago.

In 2013, the maximum penalty for breaching a protection order was increased from two to three years imprisonment.

"Rates of conviction show people are being prosecuted more often by police as well as greater reporting - both of which are good. It's good to see discharge without conviction is now almost never given," she said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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