Weekend Sun column

Friday, August 14, 2015

While the overall crime rate is at its lowest in over 30 years, family violence remains a pressing issue that we need to address. About half of all homicides in New Zealand are a result of family violence. We have the fifth-highest rate of child abuse and child death in the OECD.

This is unacceptable.

Last year National introduced a range of measures to help tackle this problem, including the establishment of a Chief Victims Advisor, GPS mobile alarms for victims, and increased penalties for offenders who breach protection orders.

We also had a nationwide rollout of the National Home Safety Service, which helps victims of domestic violence feel safe in their own homes by replacing glass panelled doors with solid doors, installing security lights and monitored personal alarms, replacing locks, and repairing broken windows.

There is still more we can do. The Government is always looking at initiatives that will reduce domestic violence and improve awareness, support and protection for victims.

We are working on intensive case management, looking into improving information judges receive about defendants and their histories, and exploring the possibility of establishing a family violence criminal disclosure scheme.

Last week Justice Minister Amy Adams launched a comprehensive review of family violence laws. This is open to everyone to have their say on how we can better deal with the issue of family violence.

Some ideas that have been raised are the possibility of establishing a set of standalone family violence offences, considering compelling police action in certain circumstances, and giving more prominence to victim safety in related legislation like the Care of Children Act.

Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own homes, and we are committed to long-term solutions that will break the cycle of family violence and help ensure that children grow up in a safe environment.