Tougher penalties are needed to curb the rising number of protection orders being breached across the country.
Yesterday, we reported breaches in the Western Bay have risen from 113 in 2008 to 144 in 2012. The number of protection orders issued also rose from 96 to 115 during the same period.
Nationwide, the number of domestic violence offenders who breach protection orders is rising sharply.
Figures show convictions for breaches of court-ordered and police-imposed protection orders increased almost 10 per cent during the past five years, reaching more than 1900 last year.
The victims of these offences are commonly at risk of stalking or text- and cyberbullying from offenders.
Police say they are focusing on protection order breaches and have identified family violence as a key driver of crime.
They raise the point that the increase in protection orders is not necessarily a bad thing. It could show campaigns in the media such as "It's Not OK" have increased awareness around family violence and that people at risk are now seeking the help and support they need.
However, the high rate of convictions and overall breaches, there were 3005 in 2012, suggests long-standing concerns around the effectiveness of orders have not been addressed.
Family law expert Ruth Busch, a former associate law professor at Waikato University and co-author of the 2007 state-funded Living At the Cutting Edge report on protection orders, says tougher penalties have to be imposed on those who breached to protect New Zealand's vulnerable women, children and men,
The maximum sentence for breaching a protection order is two years' imprisonment. Government plans to reform family law, spearheaded by Justice Minister Judith Collins, would extend this to three years' imprisonment.
However, Ms Busch says offenders need to be sentenced consecutively - for every breach - to deter further offending. She points out that if an offender breaches once, or 13 times he or she will be sentenced concurrently, so the next 12 times after the initial breach are freebies.
Ministry of Justice figures clearly support her view that something needs to be done to provide further protection to victims of family violence.
Ms Busch presents a logical solution to a complex problem and it deserves to be explored further by the Justice Minister.