Greater protection for child victims of family violence

  • Simon Power

Justice Minister Simon Power today welcomed Parliament’s unanimous passing of a law to protect child victims of family violence.

The Child and Family Protection Bill (which was split into three bills for third reading) focuses on keeping children safe where there have been instances of family violence in the home, and improves the responsiveness of the Family Court to those victims.

“Children are our most vulnerable members of society and deserve special protection,” Mr Power said

The Child and Family Protection Bill:

• Clarifies that when a protected person dies, their children will remain protected. This will avoid any legal confusion at a time when a grieving family is already under stress.

• Makes it clear that protecting children from all forms of violence – a principle of the Care of Children Act 2004 – includes protection from psychological abuse and direct and indirect abuse.

• Ensures that a child of a protection-order applicant will continue to be protected if they live at home past the age of 17.

• Ensures a focus on the best interests of the child by giving parents an opportunity to review care and contact arrangements soon after a temporary protection order is made.

• Avoids any opportunity for a lapse between a temporary order and a final protection order coming into effect which could have resulted in a victim having no protection.

• Makes it easier to obtain protection for children at risk of unlawful removal from New Zealand.

• Creates a new offence in the Adoption Act 1955 for improper inducement of consent to an adoption, punishable by up to seven years' imprisonment. This enables New Zealand to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and ensures New Zealand is meeting its international obligations to protect children from economic and sexual exploitation.

Mr Power said that in the 2009/10 year there were 3,867 domestic violence cases in the Family Court which each involved at least one child.

“The passing of this bill is another step in the Government’s work programme to improve the justice system for those who find themselves in it through no fault of their own.”

Other work in this area has included making offending against a child a specific aggravating factor at sentencing, allowing police to issue-on-the-spot safety orders for victims of domestic violence, and rolling out 13 new services and entitlements for victims of crime.

Before the election, Mr Power plans to further progress the Victims of Crime Reform Bill, and the Crimes Amendment Bill which creates a new offence of failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult from abuse, as well as outlining proposals to make courts more responsive to the needs of child victims and witnesses.