Patrice Dougan

Patrice Dougan is a NZME. News Service reporter based in Auckland.

Minister considers 'attempted strangulation' charge

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

An 'attempted strangulation' charge may be introduced by Justice Minister Judith Collins in a bid to tackle domestic violence.

The act of attempted strangulation is often a precursor to murder in domestic violence situations, the minister said, and it needed to be treated more seriously.

"One of the suggestions from the family violence group that's been looking at it, is that we bring in a new law around attempted strangulation," she told TV One's Q+A programme.

"So when we've got people who are being strangled and partly strangled in their home, that is an indicator that the person who's doing it is actually going to go on and kill them. And we need to treat that much more seriously than we do."

Most domestic violence penalties were tough enough to deal with the crime, Ms Collins said, with perpetrators being treated "as anybody else" on charges such as murder or grievous bodily harm. But a charge of male assaults female may not be reflective of the seriousness of the crime.

"Serious domestic violence includes things like grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, all those things have the same penalties, but if you're looking at whether or not male assaults female, which is the normal charge on a normal sort of -- I hate to say it -- mid-level domestic violence charge, I don't know that that is taken seriously enough," she said.

"Which is why I'm looking at another crime around attempted strangulation, because that seems to be one of the biggest predicers of what's actually going to happen next.

"At the moment, that's only treated, normally, as male assaults female, and it doesn't give judges who are looking at these cases [an indication of the seriousness]."

Ms Collins denied protection orders weren't "worth the paper they're written on", saying "the vast majority of people who are subject to protection orders will respect them".

However, she admitted they "will not stop someone who is determined to kill", and said those people should serve jail time.

"A third of them are now getting jail time, and a half of them getting some custodial sentence," she said.

The minister also denied the Government was cutting funding to essential services to victims of domestic violence, such as Women's Refuge, saying that was just one of a number of non-Governmental organisations her ministry funded.

"What we have is quite a lot of people out there working in this area, we gave $70m last year to domestic violence in the NGO sector, that's in addition to pretty much half of police resources."

Asked about the scandal involving a Malaysian diplomat accused of assault with intent to rape of Wellington woman Tania Billingsley, Ms Collins said she thought "we were all shocked" by how it had been handled by the Government.

"I don't think there's a New Zealander who is proud of the way in which this matter was handled, and certainly the [Foreign Affairs] Minister [Murray McCully] and Prime Minister [John Key] are ropable about what has occurred to the alleged victim, and they're also extremely concerned that this has not been dealt with in the way it should have been," she said, adding they were "very angry about it".

She also scrapped accusations that an inquiry into how Mfat handled the case would not scrutinise Mr McCully's actions.

"Of course it's going to, he's going to be interviewed, he's expecting to be interviewed, and any communication through to his office will be obviously shown."

- APNZ

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