Pilot provides Judges with defendant's family violence history

Tue 01 Sep 2015

Judges making bail decisions will be provided with the defendant's family violence history under a new initiative being piloted in the Porirua ...

Judges making bail decisions will be provided with the defendant's family violence history under a new initiative being piloted in the Porirua and Christchurch District Courts.

The three month pilot, beginning 1 September 2015, will automatically provide Judges and Registrars with a Family Violence Summary Report (view sample) which details all the defendant's recorded family violence incidents, Police Safety Orders and Protection Orders, including any breaches.

Currently, Judges only receive family violence information when bail is opposed. The information does not always include whether previous offences were family violence related and is not always available to the Judge when the matter is first called.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said "Bail decisions are critical in family violence cases because the victim is well known to the perpetrator. In a random crime, there is some degree of anonymity, but in family violence, the perpetrator usually knows exactly where the victim lives, and potentially their daily schedule as well. Giving judges a clear picture of a defendant’s previous pattern of family violence offending when they are making bail decisions is another way to help protect victims from further harm."

The Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) welcomed the pilot. The FVDRC recommended providing better information about a defendant's family violence history in its fourth annual report. FVDRC Chair Julia Tolmie said, "Giving judges information about a defendant’s pattern of behaviour enables them to make safer bail decisions, as they will be aware of their Police family violence history. We know family violence is more likely to be a pattern of behaviour than a one-off incident, so it is very important judges have this information to factor into their bail decisions. Victim safety and protection should always be a paramount consideration and it is very pleasing to see the Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Police and judiciary working in partnership to develop the family violence summary report."

The pilot programme is a Ministry of Justice initiative, developed in partnership with the judiciary and Police, and is part of the cross-government work to reduce family violence. If successful, the pilot programme will be rolled out nationally in early 2016.

Justice Minister Amy Adams is expected to announce further changes to ensure judges in criminal and family jurisdictions are provided with comprehensive information to support family violence decision making.


Violence reports for judges could roll out, Radio NZ, 14.03.2016

New scheme for bail decisions put on trial, Radio NZ, 01.09.2015

Family violence offender history scheme praised, NewsTalk ZB, 27.08.2015

Family violence bail information project welcomed, NZ Law Society, 27.08.2015

Family violence reports for judges welcomed, 3 News, 27.08.2015

Law expert backs family violence bail trial, 3 News, 27.08.2015

Justice Minister announces new family violence programme for bail decisions, Stuff, 26.08.2015

Judges to get better family violence info, NZ City, 26.08.2015

Judges to get reports on offenders' family violence history, Stuff, 26.08.2015

Family violence judicial summary report for pilot, NZ Law Society, 20.08.2015

Image: iStock