Protection orders come under fire

By staff reporters

The victim Gail Bower.
The victim Gail Bower.

Court-ordered protection orders have been described as "not worth the paper they are printed on" despite a police belief they allow them to act more constructively with incidents involving threats or verbal abuse.

A protection order is made by the courts to protect someone from domestic violence and establish conditions the respondent must not breach. This could involve an unwanted telephone call, threats, harassment, abuse, or damage to property.

This week Raymond Shane Christison, 48, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years for murdering his former partner in breach of a protection order.

She was killed on June 7 when Christison, 48, turned up at her home, stabbing her and slitting her throat.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesperson Garth McVicar said yesterday protection orders were "not worth the paper they are printed on".

He believed there was a greater emphasis on using them now, but "we have not seen any evidence to date to show that they are working" and ultimately greater scrutiny needed to be placed on those issued with protection orders.

"We need to be more careful when looking at their past history," he said. "Very often these people with protection orders against them have breached bails in the past, compiled a number of other offences and have a history of violent offending."

Figures released to Hawke's Bay Today under the Official Information Act show the total number of final protection orders made year-on-year in Hawke's Bay courts has increased during the past five years.

In 2008/9, 106 orders were made. In following years, this rose to 151, 184, 181 and in 2012/13, 176 protection orders were made.

The number of people convicted for breach of a protection order in Hawke's Bay has also increased, although that includes breaches of protection orders made in previous years which continue indefinitely. There were 113 convictions in 2008/9. In the following years, there were 111, 162, and 158 convictions, and 156 in the 2012/13 year.

Last month Grant Jarvis, a detective with the Hawke's Bay Child Protection Team, said protection orders were a "very effective and valuable tool", keeping those suffering domestic violence and their children safe from harm. They also enabled those who had them, and police, to hold the perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for their behaviour.Napier and Hastings family violence co-ordinators could not be reached for comment yesterday, but acting detective senior sergeant Mark Moorhouse said protection orders give victims the ability to enlist the help of the law when it is needed.

"It's a good piece of paper to have. On occasions where there are threats of violence or verbal abuse we can act in a more constructive way than if there wasn't a protection order in place."

While there were occasions on which protection orders didn't help, in most situations they were valuable for victims.

Mr Moorhouse said the rise in protection orders being granted could be due to heightened education surrounding family violence.

"We do a lot more follow-up now - we are working really hard to get the stats down.

Those seeking assistance can call the "It is OK to Ask for Help" helpline on 0800 456 450. Or Women's Refuge on 0800 733 843.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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