New Law Increases Victim Safety

New family violence legislation currently passing through Parliament will give priority to the safety of victims of family violence and their children.

The Family Violence Bill is part of a suite of initiatives to improve the family violence response system so that people get help in a timely and meaningful way.

This work includes a national strategy for the prevention of family and sexual violence and a new agency to lead that work as well as a dedicated role in Government with the appointment of a Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Minister of Justice.

The new legislation improves the legislative framework for family violence and will be implemented in two phases, December 2018 and July 2019.

Phase one improves the criminal justice response by creating three new offences that will come into force this year.

Strangulation/suffocation becomes a crime with a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. Strangulation is a significant risk factor for future violence and lethality. It is used as a tactic to control a partner by showing the victim that the perpetrator has the ability to kill.

Strangulation has serious physical consequences for a victim which can show up days after the incident. Strangulation is always serious even if there are no immediate and obvious visible marks or bruises.

A new offence of Assault on a Person in a Family Relationship will complement existing offences of Male Assaults Female and Assault on a Child and better reflects the diverse nature of family violence offending. It carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

The third new offence of Coerced Marriage or Civil Union recognises that coercion to marry is a form of abuse and will apply to marriages or civil unions occurring in New Zealand or overseas. It carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

From December, it will be easier for victims of a family violence crime to give evidence by video recording. This is intended to help reduce the trauma of giving evidence for victims as they will only have to describe what happened once.

In other changes, the safety of the victim and family will be given priority when deciding whether or not to grant bail for a defendant charged with a family violence offence.

Phase Two

Changes coming into force in phase two relate to Protection Orders, Police Safety Orders, children’s safety and tools to support system change. Included is a modernised definition of family violence which recognises family violence as a pattern of behaviour over time, including coercive control and controlling behaviour. It also includes dowry abuse as a form of family violence.


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