Domestic violence law changes

The family violence amendment bill, was read by the New Zealand Parliament on 15 March 2017 . 

Here is the information about what groups could be affected in the bill and how.

What is the bill about?

The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill would implement the Government’s “Safer Sooner reforms” policy announced in September 2016. It proposes a raft of changes to the Domestic Violence Act (and other related Acts), with a focus on:

  • getting help to those in need without them necessarily having to go to court
  • ensuring all family violence is clearly identified and risk information is properly shared
  • putting the safety of victims at the heart of bail decisions
  • creating new offences of strangulation, coercion to marry, and assault on a family member
  • making evidence gathering in family violence cases easier for Police and less traumatic for victims
  • making it easier to apply for a Protection Order
  • making offending while on a Protection Order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing
  • supporting an effective system of information sharing across all those dealing with family violence
  • enabling the setting of codes of practice across the sector

What does the bill do?

The bill proposes extensive changes to the Domestic Violence Act 1995. These include, among other things:

  • renaming the Act to Family and Whānau Violence Act 1995
  • changing references to “domestic violence” to “family violence”
  • extending what constitutes psychological abuse
  • making it easier for children to apply for protection orders
  • making it easier to enforce protection orders overseas and foreign protection orders
  • clarifying definitions of “programmes” and “prescribed services”

The Crimes Act 1961 would also be amended, in order to provide for several new offences:

  • strangulation or suffocation (up to 7 years’ imprisonment)
  • assault on a person in a family relationship (up to 2 years’ imprisonment)
  • coerced marriage or civil union (up to 5 years imprisonment)
  • abduction for purposes of marriage or civil union or sexual connection (up to 14 years imprisonment)

The bill also seeks to amend the Bail Act 2000, Care of Children Act 2004, Criminal Procedure Act 2011, Evidence Act 2006, and Sentencing Act 2002. In total, it would make consequential changes to more than thirty pieces of law.

Who might this bill affect?

  • victims of family violence
  • perpetrators of family violence
  • support services for victims of family violence
  • administrators of non-violence programmes and prescribed services

What happens next?

The bill was introduced on 15 March 2017 and is set down for first reading.

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