More teeth for family violence laws

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

The government announced an overhaul of New Zealand's family violence law today, including more support for victims and new offences introduced.

Prime Minister John Key said in his announcement police responded to 110,000 family violence call-outs a year.

If each of those incidents was represented by a single person, that was getting close to the population of Tauranga which is just under 115,000.

"There are too many Kiwi households stuck in a life of fear and despair. They need help to stop the violence and repression so they can lead healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives," Mr Key said.

Mr Key said today's announcement came after a two year review of family violence laws by Justice Minister Amy Adams. It would see more than 50 changes to the current Domestic Violence Act.

Some of the measures included flagging all family violence offending on criminal records, creating new offences of non-fatal strangulation and assault on a family member with tougher sentences than common assault and tougher penalties for people who commit crimes while subject to a protection order.

"The new measures announced today are focused on faster and more effective intervention.

"We have to get better at identifying dangerous behaviour that can escalate into more serious violence much earlier."

The new measures would cost around $130 million over four years.

"One of the things that I'm proud of about this government is that we do not and we will not shy away from tackling complex problems, especially on behalf of those who most need help," Mr Key said.

"The challenge of reducing family violence lies with all of us, with the government, the police, social agencies, and with everyone who knows that violence is occurring.

"None of us should be deterred by the difficulty of the problem. Rather we should be motivated by the difference we can make. Succeeding in reducing family violence will save lives, and transform lives."

In Tauranga, the Women's Refuge handled 1012 crisis calls in the financial year up to March 31.

The refuge had 29 women need counselling and 36 children take part in the children's programme.

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 of the offenders clocked up 13 breaches.

Some of the new measures include:

· Making the safety of victims a principal consideration in all bail decisions, and central to parenting and property orders.

· Flagging all family violence offending on criminal records to ensure Courts and Police know when they are dealing with people with histories of family violence.

· Creating new offences of non-fatal strangulation and assault on a family member, with tougher sentences than common assault. Coercion to marry will also be criminalised.

· Enforcing tougher penalties for people who commit crimes while subject to a Protection Order.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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