A new Family Violence Act

The Family Violence Bill(external link) and the Family Violence (Amendments) Bill(external link) have passed their third reading.

The Family Violence Act and the Family Violence (Amendments) Act puts in place a modern and enabling legislative framework to prevent, identify and address family violence.  They are a major step in supporting the system to reduce New Zealand's unacceptable rate of family violence.

The two Acts forms part of a wider-work programme led by the Minister of Justice, Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues) and Minister for Social Development.  The objectives of the two Acts, supported by the wider work programme, are to:

  • provide mechanisms to keep victims safe
  • be responsive to the complexity and diversity of people's lived experience of violence
  • drive the prevention of, and early intervention in, family violence
  • partner with whānau and communities, including Māori
  • address the vehaviour of prepetrators of family violence and reduce further violence, and
  • develop an integrated system that continuously improves, including by creating a shared understanding and vision for the system.

Commencement

The new Family Violence Act is scheduled to come into forcre on 1 July 2019.  Parts 2, 4 and 6 of the Family Violence (Amendments) Act, which amend the following Acts, will also come into force on 1 July 2019:

  • Care of Children Act 2004
  • Criminal Procedure Act 2011
  • Sentencing Act 2002

However, Parts 1, 3 and 5 of the Family Violence (Amendments) Act, which amend the following Acts, will come into force on 3 December 2018:

  • Bail Act 2000
  • Crimes Act 1961
  • Evidence Act 2006

Key changes

Creating a more integrated family violence system

The Family Violence Act provides more guidance about the nature and impact of family violence and expectations about the response to enhance the consistency of decision-making in the family violence system.  For example, the Act:

  • introduces principles that recognise key characteristics of family violence (e.g., that family violence is often a pattern of behaviours) and set out the expected responses to family violence (e.g., that responses to family violence should be culturally appropriate)
  • recognises that dowry abuse is a form of family violence, and
  • clarifies that carer and recipient of care relationship can be a form of family relationship.

The Act also aims to support more collaboration in the sector to address family violence by enabling family violence agencies and social service practitioners to request, use or disclose personal information for the purposes of protecting victims, performing risk or needs assessment, or making decisions or plan to respond to family violence.

The guide coordinated and consistent service delivery, the Act will enable the Minister of Justice to issue codes of practice, which can assist the sector to work collectively to the same set of rules and provide further clarity about what the Act intends.

Improving civil orders to better support victims

The Family Violence Act aims to reduce the legal barriers people face when applying for protection orders, and have processes that are more responsive to the dynamics of family violence and to the different types of assistance people need.

The Act enhances the ability of Police safety orders (PSOs) to protect victims and stop perpetrators' use of violence.  For example, the Act extends the maximum duration of PSOs to 10 days to enable victims more time to put in place safety arrangements, enables Police to direct individuals subject to PSOs to attend risk and needs assessments, and empowers Police to issue a PSO if a person is arrested, but no charges are subsequently filed.

Other changes to the Act include:

  • allowing non-government organisations (NGOs) to be approved by the Secretary for Justice to apply for protection orders on behalf of people who cannot apply for themselves.
  • empowering the court to direct respondents to attend a wider range of services to better meet their needs
  • providing a list of criteria the court must consider when deciding whether to discharge a protection order, including a temporary order, and
  • empowering the court to add any of the applicant's children who are not currently living with the applicant to a protection order.

The Act also includes provisions to uphold child and victim safety in parenting arrangements, such as:

  • empowering judges considering applications under Care of Children Act (CoCA) to make tmporary protection orders where the CoCA order will not provide enough protection
  • empowering judges to impose protective conditions for hand-over arrangements whenever family violence has occurred, and
  • extending the matters judges must consider when assessing a child's safety to include the existence, or breach, of a protection order.
Recognising the dynamic of family violence in the criminal justice system

In order to ensure the safety of victims, including children, is prioritised in decisions which affect them, the Family Violence (Amendments) Act makes the safety of victims, and those in a family relationship with a victim, the primary consideration in bail decisions for family violence cases.  It also empowers the court to impose any conditions reasonably necessary to protect victims in a family violence bail decisions.

The Act introduces modern criminal offences to reflect the dynamic of family violence offending and the serious nature of strangulation or suffocation.  The Act differentiates the following forms of family violence offending from more general offences:

  • strangulation and suffocation will be recognised as a serious new offence due to the risk factors linked with this form of offence
  • coerced marriage or civil union will be a specific offence that sends a clear signal that any forced marriage or civil union in New Zealand or overseas will not be tolerated in New Zealand, and
  • assault on a person in a family relationship will be a new offence to reflect the dynamics of family violence and recognise that assault can occur in a wide range of family relationships not highlighted by current offences of common assault and mail assaults female.

The Act highlights the serious and repeat nature of family violence and its impact on victims by providing that a breach of protection order be a specific aggravating factor in sentencing considerations.  It also ensures that family violence offending is identified and recorded consistently in the system by introducing a requirement to record an offence as a family violence offence upon conviction, and allowing the court to use that information throughout the criminal court process.

Related documents

To read more about the changes please see the below documents:

Cabinet Paper:

A modern and victim focussed Act [PDF, 393 KB]

Factsheet:

A new Family Violence Act [PDF, 120 KB]

If you would like to learn more about the previous work that has led to the proposed changes, please see the following:

Cabinet Paper 1:

Context and supporting integrated responses [PDF, 554 KB]

Cabinet Paper 2:

Family violence civil law [PDF, 558 KB]

Cabinet paper 3:

Prosecuting family violence [PDF, 521 KB]

For more information about the 2015 consultation, see Better family violence law(external link)