Submissions open on bills on family and sexual violence
Thu 14 Sep 2023
Submissions are open on 3 bills related to family violence and sexual violence. The closing date to submit is 20 October 2023.
Submissions are open on the following bills:
- Victims of Sexual Violence (Strengthening Legal Protections) Legislation Bill
- Victims of Family Violence (Strengthening Legal Protections) Legislation Bill
- Family Proceedings (Dissolution for Family Violence) Amendment Bill
Submissions are due on 20 October 2023 for all bills.
The NZ Parliament website notes "There are currently no select committees following the dissolution of the 53rd Parliament on 8 September 2023. You can still make submissions for open items of business. Submissions remain in care of the Clerk of the House until Select committees have been re-established for the 54th Parliament." The 2023 General Election will be held on 14 October 2023.
Victims of Sexual Violence (Strengthening Legal Protections) Legislation Bill
Justice Minister Ginny Andersen introduced the Victims of Sexual Violence (Strengthening Legal Protections) Legislation Bill in August 2023. The bill has 2 main purposes: 1) to reduce the risk of child victims of sexual violence being questioned about consent to sexual activity in court and 2) to require the court to consider victims' views about name suppression in sexual violence cases.
The Explanatory note of the bill gives an overview, stating:
"Amendments to the Crimes Act 1961 reduce the risk of child victims of sexual violence being questioned about consent to sexual activity.
Under sections 128 (sexual violation defined) and 128B (sexual violation), lack of consent and lack of reasonable belief in consent must be proved. The Bill inserts a new subclause within section 128B, ensuring the section does not apply if the alleged victim is under 12. This prevents children from being subjected to questions in court about whether they wanted, asked for, or even enjoyed the sexual activity.
A child-specific offence, section 132 (sexual conduct with a child under 12), already guards against this line of questioning by explicitly preventing consent as a defence. The Bill amends section 132(1) (sexual connection with a child) so that the maximum penalty available is 20 years’ imprisonment, aligning with that for sexual violation."
It also states:
"Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 clarify the law so that automatic name suppression settings both protect complainants’ privacy and support complainants’ autonomy. The Bill does this by expanding the purpose of relevant provisions and requiring the court to consider complainants’ views about the publication of identifying details.
Victims can be disempowered by the lack of streamlined process or readily available information for how to apply to lift automatic name suppression. A new, prescriptive process will be set out in the Criminal Procedure Rules 2012. The Bill amends section 203 (automatic suppression of identity of complainant in specified sexual cases) to account for this new process. Whether complainants want their privacy or to speak out about their experience, these amendments will help to ensure that the court system responds appropriately and efficiently."
For more information see the call for submissions and the Ministry of Justice Regulatory Impact Statement: Strengthening legal protections for victims of family violence and sexual violence (2023).
Victims of Family Violence (Strengthening Legal Protections) Legislation Bill
Justice Minister Ginny Andersen introduced the Victims of Family Violence (Strengthening Legal Protections) Legislation Bill in August 2023. The bill addresses litigation abuse, which involves misusing the court system to harass, threaten, control, coerce or abuse. The call for submissions on the Victims of Family Violence (Strengthening Legal Protections) Legislation Bill gives an overview, stating:
"The amendments would allow Judges to restrain a party from filing further steps in family proceedings under specified Acts where the court is satisfied that:
• the party has exhibited conduct that was an abuse of the court (this would include conduct intended to harass or annoy any other party to the proceeding)
• it had given that party a reasonable opportunity to be heard."
Media outlet The Post reported that The Backbone Collective has raised concerns that the proposed legislation could backfire and become a tool used by abusers as women are often forced to make multiple and ongoing applications to the court to raise genuine safety concerns for their children. Deborah Mackenzie of The Backbone Collective, called instead for a new specialist model for responding to violence in the Family Court, including a screening process for abuse cases on entry to the system.
Legal academic Bridgette Toy-Cronin argues that courts should view litigation abuse as part of a wider pattern of abuse involving coercive control, concluding that “It is important, however, that a lens of coercive control is sustained in the analysis [of litigation abuse], rather than reverting to an incident-based view of the harm.” See her full article Responding to abusive litigation: Short v Short (2022) published in the New Zealand Women's Law Journal.
For more information see the Ministry of Justice Regulatory Impact Statement: Strengthening legal protections for victims of family violence and sexual violence (2023).
Family Proceedings (Dissolution for Family Violence) Amendment Bill
The Family Proceedings (Dissolution for Family Violence) Amendment Bill is a member's bill introduced by Labour MP Angie Warren-Clark. The bill would amend the Family Proceedings Act 1980. It would allow a person in a marriage or civil union to apply for a court order dissolving that union if they have been the victim of family violence from the other person in the relationship without waiting 2 years. An order could be granted where a protection order has been registered under the Family Violence Act 2018 or via the Sentencing Act 2002. See the related media below for information. Make a submission on the Family Proceedings (Dissolution for Family Violence) Amendment Bill.
The sentencing for the murder of Farzana Yaqubi has brought attention to the need to reform the laws related to stalking in Aotearoa New Zealand. Farzana Yaqubi was murdered by a man who had been stalking and harassing her. Before her death she had reported the stalking and harassment to police.
Advocates have been calling for a law specific to stalking. The Auckland Coalition for the Safety of Women and Children, the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges and the National Council of Women of New Zealand | Te Kaunihera Wāhine o Aotearoa have written the policy brief A Stalking Law for New Zealand: Why it is necessary and what it should look like (2022). These issues had previously been identified in the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges report, Relentless not Romantic: Intimate Partner Stalking in Aotearoa New Zealand (2019).
The Labour Party recently said they would explore "...the possibility of creating an offence for stalking with a penalty of imprisonment." Media outlet Newshub reported that Greens, TOP (The Opportunities Party) and National have committed to making stalking a criminal offence.