Privacy issues could put the skids on some of the touted changes to laws regarding family violence, the Minister of Justice believes.

While she wants police to be able to warn people about a partner's history of violent abuse, it was unlikely New Zealand would introduce the United Kingdom system where people can ask for a police check on prospective partners, Amy Adams said.

As well as the issue of privacy, she felt many women would be reluctant to take that step.

Among changes proposed in a discussion document to be revealed today is the introduction of specific domestic violence criminal charges. New charges could involve tougher penalties, which the public would get a say on during the consultation process, Ms Adams said. Government agencies are also being asked to take a cooperative approach to dealing with domestic violence.


Northland District Health Board paediatrician Roger Tuck said the board already applies a robust cooperative system through the VIP (Violence Intervention Programme) National Programme.

All women 16-years and over who turn up at Northland DHB in key areas are screened for family violence.

"They are provided with support and referrals to appropriate agencies and /or a safety plan is developed to ensure their safety," Dr Tuck said.

Law changes that re-named the crime would not affect the board's current processes which were already rigorous, but any moves that helped overcome the problem of family violence were welcome, he said.

Northland police implement safety plans for at-risk families, but said current statistics regarding domestic violence are unreliable. However, Police cannot comment on proposed or current legislation.

Nationwide, convictions are recorded as assaults or homicides - which do not recognise the true nature of the crimes. For example, the charge "male assaults female" masks the relationship between the parties and the scale of the problem.

-Nationwide, on average, every five minutes a notification for family violence is made to police but still an estimated 90 per cent of family violence goes unreported. About 41 per cent of police response time is spent on domestic violence.