New laws to address family violence and keep victims safe from 1 July

New family violence laws will increase the safety of victims and their families, create effective interventions for people who use violence, and ensure every branch of the justice system is responding in a joined-up, appropriate way to the problem of family violence.

The Family Violence and Family Violence (Amendments) Acts, which come into effect on 1 July, make a number of significant changes:

  • updating the definition of family violence to include coercion and control, with examples such as dowry abuse, harming pets, or withholding medicine and medical aids
  • increasing Police Safety Orders to ten days and enabling them to be issued at the same time as an arrest, together with a risk and needs assessment
  • encouraging family violence agencies to share information to keep people safe, and seeking consent and checking that information with victims whenever possible; and enabling family and criminal courts to share information in relevant situations.

“Every person in New Zealand deserves to live free of violence,” said Jan Logie, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues).

“These new laws are about ensuring everyone affected by family violence gets the help and response they need in a consistent, appropriate and timely way.

“Parliament is sending a strong message that we must put victims’ voices at the centre of our decision-making. The legislation also directs us all to intervene early to stop violence from re-occurring and recognise the long-term impact of family violence on children.

“We are taking into account the specific needs of different communities, such as people with disabilities, the elderly, Māori, migrants and ethnic communities.

“We must also support people who use violence to acknowledge and change their behaviour.

“This Government has made ending family violence and sexual violence a priority. This is reflected in the creation of the Joint Venture, which sees ten government agencies taking collective responsibility on the issue, and in the Wellbeing Budget, which made the single biggest contribution in this area in New Zealand history – supporting frontline agencies, prevention work, restoring kaupapa Māori services, and dedicated funding to intervene before violence occurs.

“Ending family violence and sexual violence requires a whole-of-Government, and a whole-of-society, approach. This new law is a critical part of that approach.

“We want everyone to understand that family violence is unacceptable, and together we can end it,” said Jan Logie.

Notes

The first phase of family violence legislation took effect on 3 December, introducing the new criminal offences of strangulation, coercion to marry, and assault on a family member. It also amended the Bail Act to ensure the safety of victims, and amended the Evidence Act to more easily enable video evidence.

A summary of the changes is attached.

Guidance for information sharing between family violence agencies has been developed and is available online: https://www.justice.govt.nz/justice-sector-policy/key-initiatives/reducing-family-and-sexual-violence/a-new-family-violence-act/information-sharing-guidance/