Strangulation and suffocation, forced marriage and assault on family members will all become new offences under legislation aimed at preventing family violence which comes into effect next week.

The new offences are part of the Family Violence (Amendments) Act which was passed by Parliament last month and will be introduced in two tranches.

Under the changes that come into effect on Monday are the three new offences, as well as changes to bail laws to prioritise the safety of victims of family violence, and putting the onus on defendants to challenge the use of video evidence at trial rather than on the victim to make a case for its use.

An estimated million New Zealanders are directly affected by family violence every year and police attended 121,000 family violence callouts last year – one every four minutes.


"This isn't something that happens to others, this affects all of us," said Justice Under-Secretary Jan Logie, who has responsibility for domestic and sexual violence issues.

"Preventing and responding to family violence is one of our greatest opportunities to improve wellbeing in this country," she told reporters.

The three new offences criminalise family violence behaviours and practices which previously were not able to be prosecuted as specific family violence-type offences.

The new offence of strangulation or suffocation, which was recommended by the Law Commission in 2016, recognises that attempts to stop a person from breathing in those ways is a significant risk factor for future violence and lethal force. It will carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

"It's often used as a way of coercing or controlling a person to create fear and send the message that the perpetrator has the ability to kill," Logie said.

The new law would allow authorities to hold perpetrators to account.

Similarly, coercing someone into marriage or a civil union was a form of abuse, she said.

"A forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage in which partners consent.


"Coerced marriages can occur in a range of communities and are often difficult to detect. We know that where women have been forced marriages they are also likely to be vulnerable to other abuses," Logie said.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The offence of assault against a family member, which carries the same two-year maximum penalties as male assaults female and assault on a child, aims to put a number on family violence assaults.

"This will enable us to more accurately track the family violence offences through the court process," Logie said.

Changes to the Bail Act which take effect on Monday will mean the safety of victims and their families will be the primary consideration when deciding whether to grant bail or on what conditions for those charged with family violence offences.

It also means that any judicial officer, registrar or police employee who grants bail can impose any conditions they deem reasonably necessary to protect victims and their families.

The second tranche of changes under the Family Violence (Amendments) Act and the Family Violence Act come into force on July 1 next year. They will include extending Police Safety Orders, improved access to protection and property orders and removing legal barriers to information-sharing between agencies.