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Domestic violence bill gets the bash

Jan 30th, 2009 | By | Category: Latest News, News

violencemainGOVERNMENT plans to fast-track changes in domestic violence law omit key issues identified in a 2008 Ministry of Justice review.


The review, initiated under the previous government, received 103 submissions from community organisations, legal professionals and the public. 


Most called for specialist domestic violence training for justice sector officials, better responses to protection order breaches and increased consideration of children’s safety in custody decisions.


Resulting Cabinet papers in May 2008 recommended a raft of legislative changes to improve justice sector responses. 


More education programmes for victims and perpetrators, protection order information sessions for victims, and better legal representation for children –  supported by more than 75% of submitters – have all been dropped.


Women’s Refuge spokeswoman Sarah Pomeroy called for the Government to consider the issues flagged in the earlier review, particularly how legislation works on the ground, which she said often leaves women and children unsafe.


“In our submission we called for more domestic violence training for all justice sector workers including judges, lawyers, court staff and police.”


Justice Minister Simon Power said the Domestic Violence (Safety Enhancing) Bill, open for submissions until 27 February, concentrates on law enforcement.


“This approach ensures that effective enforcement is enabled, and both immediate and ongoing safety for victims and their children is secured, as quickly as possible.”


Mr Power has asked officials to develop further legislation to pick up outstanding issues, and said the Ministry of Justice was committed to regular staff training. 


The six Family Violence Courts in the Manukau, Waitakere, Auckland, Masterton, Lower Hutt and Porirua District Courts held staff training workshops last year.


The new bill includes “on-the-spot” protection orders, which allow police to remove an allegedly violent person from their homes for up to five days, an increase from the three days recommended after the review last May.


Women’s Refuge supports the proposed bill, but has concerns about how it will work in practice. 


“The fear is that police-initiated orders go the same way as current protection orders under the Domestic Violence Act, with many orders still not working effectively and the number of orders declining,” said Ms Pomeroy.


Parekotuku Moore, Kaihautu/Maori development director for the National Network of Stopping Violence Services, said that well-implemented “on-the-spot” orders could provide time out for those using violence.


“We need to say this is good for you mate, this gives you the chance to sit down and look at your behaviour.”


The 37 stopping violence agencies around the country work with violent men.  Ms Moore said any gaps with the new legislation would be raised via submission.

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