About 1% of protection order breaches resulted in the
offender being discharged without conviction, but even that is
too high, a senior academic says.
University of Waikato senior lecturer in community psychology
Dr Neville Robertson said if police had ''gone to the trouble
of prosecuting'' a Domestic Violence Act protection order
breach, it suggested it was serious.
The issue of protection order breaches has come under the
public spotlight following the murders of Bradley (9) and
Ellen (6) Livingstone at the hands of their father, Edward
Livingstone, last week.
The children's mother, and Livingstone's estranged wife,
Katharine Webb, had a protection order against Livingstone
following their separation last year.
Statistics from the New Zealand Family Violence Clearing
House showed 4341 breaches of protection orders were
prosecuted in New Zealand in 2011, which resulted in 3107
convictions. Of those breaches, only 38 resulted in offenders
being discharged without conviction.
Dr Robertson, who was part of the team commissioned by the
Ministry of Women's Affairs to review the Domestic Violence
Act in 2007, said many of the concerns expressed by those
involved in the family court process and who research the
subject now ''sound very similar to the concerns we heard in
He felt the courts still did not understand the psychology of
''We have seen some improvement, but it's still a problem
when the defence lawyer and the prosecutor, the judge, the
children's advocate ... don't understand the dynamics of
domestic violence,'' Dr Robertson said.
Gestures which seemed benign to most people, such as leaving
flowers on a victim's doorstep, were terrifying for victims,
It was a way of sending the message ''I know where you live,
I know I can get you any time I like'', he said.
Last year's reforms weakened the Act and it was
''concerning'', he said.
The resourcing of organisations such as Women's Refuge also
needed to be increased, he said.
''These services need to be funded not just to provide their
part of the response, but ... to provide monitoring of other
services,'' he said.
He believed it was the best way to hold the system
accountable to victims.
University of Otago dean of law Prof Mark Henaghan said the
statistics were an indication judges were taking the issue
seriously and most offenders were being convicted.
''That's not a massive number [about 1%], but for some people
that will be too many and I understand that,'' he said.
''But that shows it is taken seriously by the system.''
He would be concerned if it was much higher, as offenders
might think ''a couple of breaches doesn't matter''.
Justice Minister Judith Collins said since 2008 there had
been ''significant law reform to improve the response of the
criminal justice system to victims of family violence''.
More changes would come into effect early this year,
including expanding the definition of psychological violence
to include financial or economic abuse and encouraging
protected people to attend programmes focused on enhancing
their safety, she said.