A Dunedin woman who says she was abused by her former partner
believes the court system is letting down victims of domestic
She felt compelled to speak out and tell her story following
the deaths of Bradley (9) and Ellen (6) Livingstone, who were
shot and killed last week by their father Edward Livingstone
at the St Leonards home they shared with their mother,
Livingstone's estranged wife, Katharine Webb.
The situation which led to the children's death was eerily
similar to her own and the courts needed to take domestic
violence more seriously, the woman, who wished to remain
Since leaving the relationship, she had lived in fear of her
former partner and carried a police alarm with her at all
times, she said.
After the separation, she took out a protection order against
However, he had breached it numerous times and had appeared
in court because of the breaches, she said.
He was convicted and discharged and she felt ''let down by
the justice system''.
She was fearful his attempts to undermine her would continue
''It will never stop for me,'' she said, tearfully.
''It's not a life; it's an existence.''
His actions had caused her anxiety and stress and affected
her ability to work.
Even after she moved house again, she did not feel safe, she
She had remained in contact with the police, who had ''been
fantastic'' and ''taken it really seriously'', but there was
no more they could do, she said.
Women's Refuge spokeswoman Kiri Hannifin said it was the type
of situation the organisation knew well.
''It's common [for women to live in fear of their former
partners following a protection order being issued]. We have
had a number in the last few months of deaths while people
have been on protection orders and breaches are
commonplace,'' she said.
''There's a failure to understand the dynamics of domestic
violence and what may seem like a benign breach is actually
quite serious. There's a misunderstanding of what's serious
and what's not.''
A victim's fear of an individual needed to be given greater
consideration during sentencing, she said.
She felt the Domestic Violence Act was ''pretty good, but its
application can be less so''.
Women's Refuge was ''disappointed'' with the family court
reforms last year and felt there was still more work to be
done, Ms Hannifin said.
University of Otago dean of law Prof Mark Henaghan said more
research into the sentences handed down to those who breached
protection orders was needed to see if the Act was being
He empathised with judges who had to hand down sentences, but
believed a review of convictions and sentencing of breaches
would show if the Act was being applied as it was intended.
Courts did not ''fully understand'' that minor breaches were
a way abusive partners could be ''continuing that control
over'' those who had taken out protection orders, he said.