Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Courts don't see less family violence judge

Police statistics showing a drop in family violence offences don't square with overloaded courts and the number of victims being treated at hospitals, the Principal Family Court Judge said.

Judge Peter Boshier questioned police statistics which show recorded family violence offences reversed an upwards trend to drop by 3.1 per cent to 52,408 in 2010-11.

Addressing the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges annual conference yesterday, Judge Boshier asked whether the statistics "tell a true story".

He said there was "no let-up" in cases before courts, despite police recording a drop in offences of 10.2 per cent in Auckland and 8.9 per cent in Counties Manukau.

"I would have to say ... the sheer volume of cases coming into our family violence courts means that in some respects we are struggling."

Judge Boshier said it was crucial that police correctly recognised an incident as being family violence when they were called out.

"In some cases it will be obvious but in others that will not be so."

The statistics showed only that reported family violence may have levelled off or dropped slightly, he said.

"I think it premature to suggest that rates of family violence in New Zealand are dropping to any great extent.

"I fear that investment in elimination of family violence may need to compete strongly with other demands and I believe we need to be very vigilant on this front."

Judge Boshier warned the Government not to scrap stopping violence programmes, which are mandated when courts make protection orders.

In its "Reviewing the Family Court - a public consultation paper" released in September, the Government said it could be more efficient for other agencies to oversee the programmes.

Judge Boshier said a review of the programmes was needed, including what offenders should attend what programmes, and whether more support should be offered to victims.

"But I warn against the loss of mandatory programmes under the guise of suggesting some other Government agency will fill the void."

- NZ Herald

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