Ministry fails to move on domestic abuse
Justice Minister Judith Collins (file)
By Laura McQuillan
The Government's failure to act on a top judge's call for a new domestic violence law has prompted the Labour Party to come up with its own solution.
Labour's Sue Moroney yesterday unveiled a private member's bill to make domestic violence an aggravating factor at sentencing on assault or other charges.
The bill would enable judges to hand down stricter penalties, and enable better tracking of domestic violence offending.
Its drafting follows calls last year from retiring Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier for a new domestic violence charge.
Documents released to NZ Newswire under the Official Information Act reveal the Ministry of Justice initially took an interest in the idea, but progress on it has since stalled.
Judge Boshier wrote to the ministry last August, suggesting a new charge similar to Vanuatu's domestic violence offence, which is laid in addition to other offences, and is punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $V100,000 ($NZ1310).
Ministry staff met Judge Boshier and police to discuss the issue in October.
After the meeting, the ministry said it needed more information to assess the size of the problem and the best options for addressing it.
An official said they would follow up with colleagues about collecting the information - but there are no further emails to show whether that happened.
The issue appears to have fallen off the ministry's agenda entirely by November.
Internal emails say officials gave Justice Minister Judith Collins a heads-up about the issue, but had not been asked to do any further work.
Ms Moroney wrote to Ms Collins in March this year, asking what was being done on Judge Boshier's proposal, but the minister's response dodged those questions, referring only to the existing law and legislation already before the house.
Ms Moroney told NZ Newswire says it's clear Ms Collins has no desire to address the issue, so she's come up with her own bill.
"When judges ... say an issue that has been worrying and troubling them, about their ability to know about and deal with domestic violence, then that should be taken very seriously by Parliament, and I don't believe it's been given due consideration by the minister."