Family violence legislation passes

Image: Wikimedia

Two significant family violence bills have passed through Parliament and will become law.

The legislation was introduced by the previous Government as the Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill. In October 2018, under the current Government, it was divided into two bills: the Family Violence Bill and the Family Violence (Amendments) Bill.

The Family Violence Bill provides that the Domestic Violence Act 1995 will be replaced by the new Family Violence Act. The purpose of the Act is "... stop and prevent family violence by -

(a) recognising that family violence, in all its forms, is unacceptable; and
(b) stopping and preventing perpetrators from inflicting family violence; and
(c) keeping victims, including children, safe from family violence." (section 3(1))

Changes include:

  • "allowing approved organisations to apply for protection orders on behalf of victims to improve the accessibility of protection orders
  • providing more opportunities for perpetrators and victims to be connected with the services and programmes they need, both under protection orders and when a Police safety order has been issued
  • enabling relevant information to be shared between social services practitioners and family violence agencies to ensure more integrated and coordinated responses to family violence incidents, and
  • extending the maximum duration of a Police safety order from 5 days to 10 days to ensure victims have sufficient time to put in place safety arrangements."

The Family Violence Act will come into force on 1 July 2019.

The Family Violence (Amendments) Bill makes amendments to the Bail Act 2000, Care of Children Act 2004, Crimes Act 1961, Criminal Procedure Act 2011, Evidence Act 2006 and Sentencing Act 2002. These changes include the introduction of three new criminal offences: strangulation or suffocation, assault on a person in a family relationship, and coerced marriage or civil union. Other changes include making victims’ safety the primary consideration in family violence bail decisions, enabling family violence offending to be tracked through the criminal justice system, and inserting a new aggravating factor at sentencing.

Changes to the Crimes Act 1961, Bail Act 2000 and the Evidence Act 2006 will come into force on 3 December 2018.

Amendments to the Care of Children Act 2004, Criminal Procedure Act 2001 and the Sentencing Act 2002 will come into force on 1 July 2019.

The Ministry of Justice website provides a summary of key changes, under the headings:

  • Creating a more integrated family violence system
  • Improving civil orders to better support victims; and
  • Recognising the dynamic of family violence in the criminal justice system.
The Law Society has also provided a brief summary of the changes.

Background information

For background information, see our previous stories including:

Review of family violence laws: Government discussion document released (August 2015)

Govt announces proposed changes under legislative review (September 2016)

Government introduces Bill to reform family violence laws (March 2017)

Select Committee reports on Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill (August 2017)

In September 2018, Justice Minister Andrew Little and Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence), Jan Logie summarised some of the key changes the Coalition Government was making. These are detailed in Supplementary Order Paper 116.

Related news

The Ministry of Justice has released two Cabinet papers and associated documents (scroll to bottom of page): Breaking the inter-generational cycle of family violence and sexual violence and Leadership of Government's collective efforts to reduce family violence and sexual violence. These include a number of related documents that provide background information and outline proposals to address and coordinate family and sexual violence nationally. This includes the development of a national action plan and strategy; dedicated agent to coordinate family and sexual violence work; the joint venture model; and advisory groups.

The legislative reform and this work are part of the cross-government family violence & sexual violence work programme. Subscribe to receive work programme updates.

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