14 Apr 2009

Domestic violence: we're onto it, say the police

8:36 pm on 14 April 2009

The police deny that they are not tackling the issue of domestic violence adequately.

The claim has been made by an international human rights group that visited New Zealand last year and compiled a report on how the country deals with domestic violence.

The report, issued in Wellington on Tuesday by the Leitner Centre for International Law and Justice at New York's Fordham Law School, considers violence against women in the light of New Zealand's commitments under international law, and recommends significant changes in policy approaches.

The report, "It's Not OK", finds that too often protection orders are not served or enforced. In several cases, it says, offenders have been bailed to the address of a victim who has a protection order against them.

'A lot of effort' put into upskilling staff

Assistant commissioner Grant Nicholls says, however, that the police are committed to the investigation, attendance and prosecution of family violence, and that they've put a lot of effort into upskilling staff to understand the complexities of such situations.

He says specialist family violence coordinators are astounded by claims that some areas refuse to serve protection orders.

While acknowledging the efforts made in recent years to tackle domestic violence, the centre is also critical of a lack of data, having found no figures on the enforcement of protection orders.

The researcher who headed the Leitner Centre's delegation to New Zealand, Jorge Contesse, says that the way this country deals with domestic violence does not take human rights law into account.

Government urged to adopt recommendations

In the light of the report a local group, the Roundtable on Violence Against Women, has called for an integrated plan of action that addresses the links between all forms of violence against women.

"The recommendations support what community groups have been saying for a long time - services are underfunded, more support is needed for Maori to address violence against women and children, and we don't have enough good evidence about what interventions work best in this country," says spokesperson Ruth Herbert.

Urging the Government to adopt the recommendations, Ms Herbert says the centre's report "puts us in the international spotlight regarding our efforts to protect women and children - and clearly there is a lot of room for improvement".