New family violence offences including assault on a family member will be created as part of more than 50 changes to the current Domestic Violence Act.

However, the Government has declined to make coercive control and psychological violence stad-alone family violence offences, saying evidence from Britain where such offences existed was they had not proven as effective as hoped for.

Prime Minister John Key has announced a raft of changes in a speech to justice sector groups at Te Papa in Wellington.

In a strongly-worded speech, he directly addressed family violence perpetrators.


"To the perpetrators of this misery I say this - recognise what is going on in your home and take responsibility for it.

"A good father, a good step-father and a good man does not hit, intimidate or control his spouse, partner, ex-partner or her children. The same goes for women who are abusers.

"If you act in a violent and controlling way, you can change this behaviour. Own the problem. Nothing will get better until you do. Ask for help. There is no shame in that."

Today's overhaul of the law has thrilled non-government organisations that are working to cut family violence rates.

Jane Drumm of the Auckland agency Shine, who travelled to Wellington for the speech, told the Herald she had never heard a prime minister speak so strongly about the issue.

"I have been doing this work now...for 33 years, and I have never in all that time heard such a strong statement from a politician. And talk about so many things that we have been pushing for, for many, many years.

"I just feel like we have a real opportunity that we can make a big difference."

Women's Refuge said the changes were a "giant step" in the right direction.


Changes announced today include:

• Creating new offences of non-fatal strangulation, coercion to marry, and assault on a family member.
• Making the safety of victims a principal consideration in all bail decisions, and at the centre of parenting and property orders.
• Flagging all family violence offences on criminal records. This will be done so the courts and police know when a person has such a history.

The changes come after nearly 500 detailed submissions from individuals and groups were received after the Government released a discussion document last August.

New Zealand has the highest reported rate of intimate partner violence in the developed world.

Other changes announced today include:

• Allowing others to apply for a protection order on a victim's behalf, and better providing for the rights of children under protection orders. This could happen when a victim is too scared of a perpetrator to apply for an order herself. Police officers could already initiate a protection order, for example when a police safety order was breached. But the law change announced today would enable others to initiate that process.


• Making offending while on a protection order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing.

• Letting people refer themselves to services to help stop violence, such as giving the perpetrator access to non-violence programmes, without them having to go to court.

• Make it easier for the sharing of information between the courts, police and the agencies and community organisations that deal with families.