People who breach protection orders may be tracked by GPS to prevent them from approaching their victims under proposals being considered before this week's tragic killings in Dunedin.

Edward Livingstone had twice breached a protection order taken out against him by his wife, Katharine Webb, before he this week returned to his former family home and shot dead his children Bradley and Ellen Livingstone then took his own life.

The deaths have sparked calls for better police enforcement of the orders, tougher penalties for those who breach them, and a review of the relevant legislation.

But Justice Minister Judith Collins - whose cousin was killed by her estranged husband after he breached a protection order - said the system had been reviewed in the Family Court reform process.

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That resulted in the Government increasing penalties for breaching protection orders from two years' imprisonment to three.

"The issue in this case is that this person wasn't imprisoned, otherwise this wouldn't have happened," Ms Collins said.

She said that with the increased penalties, Parliament was trying to send a message to judges that "we expect people to face the full penalties available should they continuously breach these orders".

But such cases were difficult for judges to deal with.

Police press conference on the triple fatal shooting in Dunedin.

"I'm not someone who blames the judges or those who try to stop this happening. The full blame must be with the offenders."

She said that before Christmas she had asked officials to work on measures to further toughen up enforcement of protection orders.

"They're doing some work for me, including giving the judiciary the power to impose GPS monitoring," she said.

The GPS devices attached to an offender send out a signal every minute. If the offender strays into "exclusion zones" near victims an alarm sounds at the Corrections Department offices in Wellington.

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Officials call police in the region immediately, or on some occasions ring the offender directly to warn them to leave the area.

Ms Collins expects to be updated next week.

Tim Black, of the Law Society's family law section, said it appeared the protection order system was working because Ms Webb was able to obtain an order and breaches of that order were dealt with by police and the courts.

But "a piece of paper by itself can't stop someone acting in this way".

Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare said all breaches of protection orders "should be treated with the full force of our law", and offenders who threatened to kill "should be treated in the most high-risk category with strong consequences".

Labour's women's affairs spokeswoman, Carol Beaumont, said the number of frontline agencies expressing concerns about the present system "is a clear message that things aren't working".


Hundreds of protection orders breached

Almost 2000 people were convicted of breaching a protection order in the last financial year, with similar conviction rates recorded over the past five years.

A breach could involve anything from unwanted telephone calls to threats, harassment, abuse or damage to property.

"Breaches are taken seriously by government agencies and the courts," a Ministry of Justice spokesman said.

There were 2963 protection orders issued in the 2012/13 financial year. The 1907 breaches in the same period are not a direct comparison, however, because protection orders last indefinitely.

The number of protection orders in place at any one time is likely to be "in the tens of thousands", the Justice spokesman said.

As of October, the maximum sentence for breaching a protection order is three years' imprisonment though Edward Livingstone's second breach occurred just before the law change, when the maximum was two years.

If a protection order is in place against someone, that person can be arrested, fined or imprisoned if they try to hurt or threaten you or your children, either physically, psychologically or sexually.

If the protection order contains a non-contact condition, the person can also be arrested for trying to contact you in any way.

Protection orders are made by filing a form and a written statement, which needs to be given to a Family Court.

It is possible to get a temporary order within 24 hours.

You can ask for the protection order "without notice" to the defendant, if you consider any delay would put you or your children at risk.