A top judge says programmes aimed at stopping domestic violence should be redesigned for one-off offenders and for Maori and Asian men.
Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier told a hui for anti-violence providers in Auckland yesterday that too many offenders were dropping out of anti-violence programmes, possibly partly because of the current "one-size-fits-all" approach.
Programme providers accepted his criticism but said they would need more money to tailor programmes to different kinds of offenders.
Offenders in some areas already face waiting lists of up to two months to get into programmes.
Under the Domestic Violence Act, all offenders - usually men - who have protection orders issued against them have to attend an approved group programme for between 30 and 50 hours. But Judge Boshier said the programmes did not suit all offenders.
"I believe we should screen in order to determine whether attendance is likely to be effective," he said.
"If there is a one-off act of violence, which is limited to and caused by a certain context, should we really be requiring offenders to attend a programme that assumes the violence is a continuous or systematic feature of the respondent's relationships?
He said there also needed to be more "culturally appropriate" programmes.
Almost a quarter (24.4 per cent) of respondents to protection orders in 2007 were Maori, compared with only 14.6 per cent of the general population.
Only 4.7 per cent of respondents were listed as Asian, compared with 9.2 per cent of the population, but Judge Boshier said the actual proportion was probably higher because ethnicity was not recorded for all respondents.
"Increased resources and different service provision strategies may have to be developed if the cultural needs of men from a diversity of cultures are to be met," he said.
He said a Ministry of Justice survey of protection orders issued in the country's 20 busiest courts in the last half of 2007 found that only 58 per cent of the offenders had completed, or were still completing, their programmes.
But only 11 per cent were prosecuted for failing to attend. Another 8 per cent had had their orders to attend discharged, 3 per cent had been jailed or left the country, 13 per cent were not prosecuted because police had lost contact with them or for other reasons, and 7 per cent had simply never been followed up.
"With 24 per cent of respondents having no good reason for not having completed their programmes, we should be concerned," Judge Boshier said.
Brian Gardner of the National Network of Stopping Violence Services agreed with the judge's call to tailor programmes.
"I think there was a strong challenge to the Ministry of Justice about not just paying the money but we need to see what works," he said.
"The most effective thing about change is the connection the person delivering the programme makes with the person receiving it ...
"I think there are some challenges in having adequate service provision to Maori and Pacific people, and with Asian and new immigrant communities there are real challenges having people of those cultures to deliver to those people."
Women's Refuge national manager Heather Henare called for stronger penalties for those who dropped out of anti-violence programmes. She said some programme providers failed to report drop-outs and police failed to follow up all reports.
But Mr Gardner said this changed late last year when the job of chasing up drop-outs was transferred from court bailiffs to police.