On-the-spot safety orders take effect from Thursday

  • Simon Power

Victims of domestic violence will be able to get immediate protection from dangerous situations from Thursday, when the Government's on-the-spot safety orders come into effect.

Justice Minister Simon Power said the on-the-spot orders will allow police to remove an alleged violent person from the home for a period of up to five days.

"Police will issue these orders in situations where there is an insufficient basis to arrest but where they believe there is a likelihood of domestic violence occurring, and an order is necessary for the safety of the victim.

"This will provide a period of safety in which victims can consider their future options, including the possibility of a court protection order."

Also from Thursday, the criminal courts can issue a protection order on the behalf of victims in cases where an offender is sentenced for a domestic violence offence.

The changes were part of the Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill, which strengthened the responsiveness of criminal justice agencies to victims of domestic violence. It was passed late last year and amended the Domestic Violence Act 1995, the Sentencing Act 2002, and the Bail Act 2000.

Mr Power said implementation was delayed till July 1 to ensure a smooth transition from the legislation to day-to-day policing practice and court management of domestic violence matters.

The legislation also:

  • Removed from the Domestic Violence Act the two-tiered penalty structure for breaches of court protection orders, leaving only the maximum penalty of up to two years' imprisonment.
  • Maintained the offence of failing to attend a court-ordered programme, which comes with a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment.
  • Repealed the statutory criteria that police have to take into account when considering whether to arrest, without warrant, a person who they suspect has contravened a court protection order. This means the approach taken by police will be the same as for any other offence when an arrest without warrant is being considered.
  • Allowed police to impose any conditions considered reasonably necessary to protect any particular person residing with the victim of domestic violence, such as children, new partners, or elderly parents.

"This Act provides useful tools in expediting the response of the criminal justice sector to domestic violence.

"The on-the-spot safety orders will provide immediate protection for victims, while making it very clear to the person who has allegedly committed the violence that their behaviour will not be tolerated.

"This law is predicated on the belief that there is more that can be done to protect victims of family violence."

A second bill in the Government's plan to protect victims of domestic violence is being considered by a select committee.

The Child and Family Protection Bill introduces changes to ensure courts can act to protect children and families from all forms of violence and abuse. The Government intends to pass it before the end of the year.