Family Violence Bills pass third reading

The Family Violence Bill and the Family Violence (Amendments) Bill have both passed their third readings in Parliament and will become law.

“Today, the Coalition Government has come together to send a strong signal that New Zealand is committed to tackling family and sexual violence,” said Andrew Little.

“Family violence is our nation’s great shame. One in three New Zealand women experience physical or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime. We don’t just have a problem, we have a crisis. 

“Meaningful change for victims demands that we build a society where violence is not tolerated, where perpetrators are held to account for their actions, and where the wellbeing of all is prioritised. These Bills are a significant step forward.

“But changing the law is only part of the solution. The Coalition Government boosted family violence support services by $76 million in Budget 2018, to support the new legislative foundation for ongoing change. All New Zealanders have a role to play in making our country violence-free,” said Andrew Little.

Earlier today, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues), Jan Logie said, “I am very proud to be Under-Secretary in a Government that is making significant changes to improve the response to family violence. The Bills, along with the joint-venture approach I announced in September, are a significant shift in the way we respond to these issues. It is vital we have an accountable, whole-of-government approach in place to best support victims and put an end to the cycle of violence.”

The Family Violence Bill makes significant changes to the Domestic Violence Act 1995, which has been modernised and renamed the Family Violence Act. Changes to the Act include:

  • allowing approved organisations to apply for protection orders on behalf of victims to improve the accessibility of protection orders
  • providing more opportunities for perpetrators and victims to be connected with the services and programmes they need, both under protection orders and when a Police safety order has been issued
  • enabling relevant information to be shared between social services practitioners and family violence agencies to ensure more integrated and coordinated responses to family violence incidents, and
  • extending the maximum duration of a Police safety order from 5 days to 10 days to ensure victims have sufficient time to put in place safety arrangements.

The Family Violence (Amendments) Bill makes changes to the criminal law and introduces three new offences: strangulation or suffocation, assault on a person in a family relationship, and coerced marriage or civil union. Other changes include making victims’ safety the primary consideration in family violence bail decisions, enabling family violence offending to be tracked through the criminal justice system, and inserting a new aggravating factor at sentencing.

The Bills changes will come into force on different dates. Changes to the Crimes Act 1961, Bail Act 2000 and the Evidence Act 2006 will come into force on 3 December 2018. The new Family Violence Act, which will replace the Domestic Violence Act 1995, and the amendments to the Care of Children Act 2004, Criminal Procedure Act 2001 and the Sentencing Act 2002 will come into force on 1 July 2019.

The Family Violence (Amendments) Bill as passed can be found here:

http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2017/0247B/latest/versions.aspx

The Family Violence Bill as passed can be found here:

http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2017/0247A/latest/versions.aspx

More information about the joint-venture approach can be found here:

https://www.justice.govt.nz/justice-sector-policy/key-initiatives/reducing-family-and-sexual-violence/work-programme/updates/