Judiciary Summary bail decisions pilot expands

  • Judith Collins
  • Amy Adams
Police Justice Courts

A pilot to support judges to make better informed family violence bail decisions expands to Wellington, Wairarapa and Northland, Justice Minister Amy Adams and Police Minister Judith Collins have announced today.

The pilot programme gives judges making bail decisions in family violence cases more information about the risks defendants pose.

Under the initiative, judges and registrars receive a summary report for every family violence bail application. It details whether Police have previously received calls for service in relation to family violence incidents involving the defendant, and signals if they are subject to any police safety orders or protection orders, or have breached such orders.

“Initiatives like this have the potential to improve how the justice sector keeps victims safe, manages offenders and holds them to account, and breaks cycles of violence,” says Ms Adams.

The pilot was announced in September 2015 by Ms Adams and members of the judiciary, and has been running in the Porirua and Christchurch District Courts.

From 1 May 2016, several district courts in the Wellington and Northland regions (Wellington, Hutt Valley, Masterton, Whangarei, Kaikohe and Kaitaia) will also trial the initiative for six months. The pilot will be evaluated to inform decisions about national roll-out.

“Under the initiative, Justice and Police are working closely together to provide relevant, timely and consistent information to judges and registrars for every family violence bail application,” says Ms Adams.

“Before the pilot began, the information judges received depended on whether bail was opposed or not. It did not always detail whether a defendant’s previous offences were family violence related, and the information may not always have been available to the judge when the case was first called.”

“Access to this information has been requested by the judiciary. Family violence is a complex crime and it is vital that Judges and Registrars are provided with timely and complete information when making bail decisions in order to assess the cumulative pattern of harm in each case. Almost half of all serious assaults and homicides in New Zealand are related to family violence and it is imperative that we do all we can to keep victims safe,” says Ms Collins. 

“Extending the pilot will provide more information so we can make sure the process works as well as possible and understand how it affects workloads and remand prisoner numbers.”

The pilot stems from a Family Violence Death Review Committee recommendation. The judiciary developed the initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and Police, with input from the Department of Corrections. 

It is part of the Government’s comprehensive cross-agency work programme overseen by the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence, co-chaired by Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.