Family violence laws to be given more teeth

By Sandra Conchie

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More powers: Prime Minister John Key today announced a raft of changes to the country's family violence laws. File/Photo.
More powers: Prime Minister John Key today announced a raft of changes to the country's family violence laws. File/Photo.

Bay social agencies welcomed the raft of changes to the laws tackling family violence set to be rolled out including harsher penalties for offenders.

Prime Minister John Key and Justice Minister Amy Adams yesterday announced the major changes to the way family violence incidents would be responded to.

They include the safety of victims being put at the centre of all bail application decisions, as well as parenting and property orders.

New offences for non-fatal strangulation, coercion to marry and assault on a family member would also be created with tougher sentences than common assault.

Other new measures include flagging family violence offending on criminal records and tougher penalties for people who committed crimes while subject to protection orders.

Recent Ministry of Justice figures showed 947 people in the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel region breached their protection orders a total of 1176 times between 2005 and 2015.

One offender clocked up 13 breaches.

Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust executive director Tommy Wilson said he applauded the Government's suite of family violence law changes.

"Anything that empowers women and other victims and gives them greater protections gets a big tick from me and this organisation," he said.

Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angela Warren-Clark said the 53 law changes would "absolutely" make a difference, particularly to victims of non-fatal strangulation which was an "almost daily occurrence" in many communities.

"But I do think that the devil is in the detail and we need to wait and see what teeth will be given to supporting these changes when they come into force," she said.

Victim Support chief executive Kevin Tao said the package of reforms had the potential to be a "game changer" for victims of family violence, but only if resources were prioritised for frontline services

Victim Support supported almost 30,000 victims each year, including 9000 victims of family harm, and police responded to 110,00 incidents of family violence a year.

"There are no other word for it, 110,000 incidents of family violence a year is a national disgrace," Mr Tao said.

The changes would cost $130 million over four years, and legislation was expected to be introduced to Parliament early next year.

< h2>Where to find help:

Tauranga Women's Refuge
Crisis clinic 541-1911 or 0800-867-33843
Shakti 0800-742-584
Tauranga Living Without Violence 577-9297
Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust 571-0875
It's Not OK helpline 0800-456-450
Shine 0508-744-633

- Bay of Plenty Times

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