Luddite Journo weighs in on the government's proposed Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill, examining the origins and evolution of the bill and the need for on-the-spot protection orders. Labour's original bill included both a shorter duration for the orders, and extensive provisions bringing domestic violence legislation into alignment with other legislation and improving access to education and support programs for both victims and abusers. The latter would have been highly beneficial, and helped both victims move on with their lives, and abusers to change their behaviour; it sadly comes as no surprise to me that National would abandon it in favour of a simple-minded punitive approach. After all, there are no votes in actually helping to reduce crime, and those programmes cost money which could be given to their rich mates as tax-cuts...
Luddite Journo also points out that in many ways, changing the law fundamentally misses the point:
The main difficulties in keeping victims safe from domestic violence according to every major piece of research since the Domestic Violence Act 1995 is however, not legislation at all.Reading the Waikato University study [PDF] she linked to, the core problem seems to be that neither the police, or (surprisingly) the courts really care about protection orders:
The problem with justice sector responses to domestic violence in Aotearoa New Zealand is implementation, which is inconsistent, and at times, poor. And this has literally cost women and children their lives.
While getting a protection order was a psychological boost for most women, any relief was, in the majority of cases, short-lived. That is, most women experienced multiple and repetitive breaches of their orders. In some cases, respondents embarked on sustained campaigns of stalking and harassment. Some of this was by electronic means. Telephone calls, text messages and emails were all used to harass, threaten and intimidate women in breach of protection orders. Seldom were men subject to any meaningful consequences for such breaches.(Emphasis added)
Indeed, the same could be said about breaches generally. That is, the women in our case studies often experienced a quite inadequate response from the police when they reported breaches of their protection order. This was particularly the case with breaches of the non-contact provisions which did not involve physical assaults. Such breaches were often trivialised as “technical”, but to the women involved they were frightening and worrying reminders of the respondent’s ability to track them down...
Inadequate enforcement of protection orders extended to the criminal courts. Few men who breached their orders were ever convicted of such offences, and even fewer received a meaningful sentence...
All of which begs an obvious question: if the police and courts won't enforce the existing system of protection orders, why do we think they will effectively enforce the new ones? Instead, it seems likely that the same attitudes will prevail, and these new powers will simply become a way for police officers to get a problem "off the books". Turn up to a domestic violence incident, issue an on-the-spot order (with no hearing, no evidence, and no possibility of judicial review), mark it as "resolved", and head on their way. No enforcement, no followup - and therefore no effective protection. Draconian powers are simply an enabler for police disinterest and laziness.
It also points at a solution: eventually, if we want to deal with this problem, we are going to have to change the attitudes of the police and judiciary to get them to take it seriously. And that applies regardless of the legal framework. The problem is that it takes time, and money. And a quick-fix, cost-free legislative solution will always be more attractive to headline-seeking politicians.