The number of domestic violence offenders who breach
protection orders is rising sharply, but Justice Minister
Judith Collins remains confident the system is working.
Figures from the Justice Ministry show convictions for
breaches of court and police-imposed orders increased almost
10 per cent between 2008 and 2012, reaching more than 1900
While the number of orders imposed during that period
increased by 14 per cent, the high rate of convictions and
overall breaches - there were 3005 in 2012 - suggests
longstanding concerns around the effectiveness of orders have
not been addressed.
Family law expert Ruth Busch, a former associate law
professor at Waikato University and co-author of the 2007
state-funded Living At the Cutting Edge report on protection
orders, told APNZ trivialisation of breaches in the court
system was a major factor in the high breach rate.
Tougher penalties had to be imposed on those who breached to
protect New Zealand's vulnerable women, children and even
men, she said.
Currently, the maximum sentence for breaching a protection
order is two years imprisonment. Government plans to reform
family law, spearheaded by Ms Collins, would extend this to
three years imprisonment.
However, Ms Busch believed altering the sentencing method for
breaches would act as a major deterrence for further
"Unless you sentence consecutively, which they don't do,
every time is just a freebie. If breach once, or I breach 13
times they will sentence concurrently, so the next 12 times
after my breach is just a freebie."
The figures were released under the Official Information Act
and are the latest available.
Ms Collins, who declined to be interviewed, said in a
statement the high rate of convictions showed the courts
treated breaches of protection orders seriously.
"Police treat any breach of a protection order very seriously
and will make an arrest where necessary when they occur," she
"Frontline police and supporting organisations take the
enforcement of protection orders seriously and work with
victims to make sure that they are taking appropriate steps
to keep themselves safe."
Obviously, there was a limit to which police could monitor
the parties of protection orders, she said.
Women's Refuge, which helps 25,000 women and children a year,
said feedback from clients indicated that "differing views"
about what constituted a protection order breach could be a
"Perpetrators don't seem to take them as seriously as they
ought to," a spokeswoman said.
This can be improved "if the police enforce them all the time
and if the courts take breaches really seriously".
Some of the breaches could be around a text message or the
perpetrator calling the woman's home and hanging up. This
might be considered a "less aggressive breach" than the
perpetrator driving past the woman's home.
However, "women find that really threatening", the
spokeswoman said: "It's really subversive,
Police prevention national manager Superintendent Bruce Bird
said officers took a very serious approach to any protection
These normally lead to an arrest, he said.
"Police continue to work with other agencies and service
providers to protect the victims of family violence."
- By Teuila Fuatai of APNZ