Family Violence Death Review Committee welcomes law changes

13 Sep 2016 | Family Violence Death Review Committee

The Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) welcomes the changes proposed by the Government today. The FVDRC is an independent committee that reviews and advises the Health Quality & Safety Commission on how to reduce the number of family violence deaths.

The changes, announced by Prime Minister John Key, include the introduction of non-fatal strangulation, coercion to marry and assault on a family member as new crimes.

The Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence, co-chaired by Minister of Justice Amy Adams and Minister for Social Development Anne Tolley, has been leading an ambitious cross-government work programme. The FVDRC says the Government proposals demonstrate the Ministers’ commitment to improving the systemic response to family violence.

'These changes set the direction for a very different response to victims, people perpetrating family violence and their families and whānau. The reforms include key elements required for an integrated family violence response system,' says FVDRC chair Associate Professor Julia Tolmie. 

The FVDRC welcomes the inclusion of principles to guide how practitioners should respond to family violence victims and perpetrators. 

'These principles set a clear direction for what is required for safe practice because they recognise the need for practitioners to proactively be involved in maximising the safety of victims. They have the potential to transform how we respond to family violence and are world leading.'

In its Fourth Annual Report, published in 2014, the FVDRC identified the current system as being largely reliant on family violence non-government organisations ensuring their service is safe. In the absence of a national framework, different agencies were developing potentially conflicting responses.

'Importantly, the new guiding principles will be backed up by codes of practice and will align the service providers in the family violence sector,' says Assoc Prof Tolmie.

In its Fourth Report, the FVDRC also called for an amendment to the Crimes Act 1961 to include non-fatal strangulation as its own crime.

'A San Diego study[1] found most abusers do not strangle to kill, they strangle to show they can kill. Strangulation is often present in cases we review, either in the history of a victim’s abuse or as part of their death.'

The FVDRC also recommended that family violence offences be flagged within the criminal justice system, and that criminal judges be provided with comprehensive family violence information to aid safe and robust decision-making. The proposed reforms make these recommendations a reality.

The FVDRC believes the changes will also make it easier to apply for a protection order and provide additional protection after a separation.

Greater protection to adult and child victims after separation is provided by strengthening the assessment of family violence when considering parenting arrangements under the Care of Children Act. 

Assoc Prof Tolmie says the FVDRC strongly supports the clear message that victims’ safety should take precedence over confidentiality and privacy when it comes to sharing information.

In its Fifth Annual Report, the FVDRC recommended strengthening the opportunities for intervention with those perpetrating family violence.

'If we want to prevent family violence reoccurring, we need to focus on the people using violence.

'These legislative changes provide more effective and earlier opportunities to intervene with perpetrators,' Assoc Prof Tolmie says.


References

[1] G.B. Strack and C. Gwinn, ‘On the edge of homicide: Strangulation as a prelude’, Criminal Justice, vol. 26, no. 3, 2011.

Last updated 13/09/2016