New Zealand’s high rate of family violence is not acceptable. The Government wants to make sure family violence victims are kept safe and people who use family violence are held to account. As a result, Parliament passed two major pieces of new legislation, the Family Violence Act 2018 and the Family Violence (Amendments) Act 2018.
The Family Violence Act 2018
The Family Violence Act 2018(external link) takes effect on 1 July 2019. The Act replaces the Domestic Violence Act 1995 and gives decision-makers in the family violence system better guidance about the nature and impact of family violence.
The Act enables the family violence sector to have a more consistent response to victims and those who commit family violence. It also:
improves Police safety orders to protect victims and stop people committing family violence
introduces legal provisions to support family violence information sharing
recognises that dowry abuse is a form of family violence
clarifies that a carer and recipient of care relationship can be a type of family relationship
allows NGOs, with the approval of the Secretary for Justice, to apply for a protection order for a person who can’t apply themselves
empowers the court to direct people who commit family violence to attend a wider range of services
requires the court to consider certain criteria when deciding whether to discharge a protection order (including a temporary protection order)
empowers the court to add any children of a victim to a protection order, even if they aren’t currently living with the victim.
ensures that the safety of victims, including children, is the priority when courts make decisions on bail. For example, before deciding on a perpetrator’s bail, the court will FIRST consider the effect of the decision on the victim
creates the new serious offence of strangulation or suffocation
makes it an offence to force someone into marriage or a civil union in New Zealand or overseas
makes it a specific offence to assault a family member
makes breaching of a protection order a specific aggravating factor to be considered at sentencing
introduces a ‘family violence flag’ that can be attached to an offence so that court staff are aware of the potential risks associated with a case.
Improved protection for children and victims
The Amendments Act makes changes to better protect children and victims in parenting arrangements. It:
empowers judges considering applications under the Care of Children Act (CoCA) to make temporary protection orders where a CoCA order wouldn’t provide enough protection
empowers judges to impose protective conditions for child handover arrangements if there’s been family violence
requires judges to consider the existence or breach of a protection order when they assess a child’s safety.
The Amendments Act takes effect in two stages:
First stage (effective 3 December 2018) Amends the Crimes Act 1961, the Bail Act 2000 and the Evidence Act 2006 to:
introduce the new offences of strangulation or suffocation, coerced marriage or civil union, and assault on family member
prioritise victim safety in bail decisions and enable video evidence.
Second stage (effective 1 July 2019) Amends the Care of Children Act 2004, the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 and the Sentencing Act 2002 to put in place the remaining changes identified above.
Learn more about strangulation or suffocation, forced marriage, and assault on a family member.
To read more about the changes, see the below documents: