Sir Owen Glenn.
Sir Owen Glenn has nudged New Zealand one step closer
towards a less adversarial justice system for domestic violence
cases in a bid to fix a "broken" court system.
Lawyers said they were interested in exploring the issue
after the first report of Sir Owen's $2 million independent
inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence suggested a
"review of the adversarial system that places an excessive
burden of proof on victims".
The Glenn report, called "The People's Report", found
"overwhelming agreement" among the 500 people who gave
evidence that New Zealand's court system was "dysfunctional
"The court system structure and processes, and the people
working within it, revictimise and retraumatise victims," it
Elsewhere, it said: "An overwhelming number of people told
how their domestic violence was treated as a 'game' by
lawyers, who unnecessarily lengthened proceedings for what
appeared to be their own benefit."
Specific proposals are not expected until a final report by
the end of this year.
But the first report offered "ideas for change" from those
who gave evidence, including:
"Revisit the burden of proof so that it lies with
perpetrators, not victims."
Review the adversarial system, replacing it with "a more
collaborative system where the burden of proof is on the
End the court's "gender bias" which "fosters institutional
abuse and revictimisation of victims, while perpetrators were
often not held accountable for their behaviour".
Provide advocates and non-means-tested legal aid to all
victims of child abuse and domestic violence.
Revise criteria for lawyers to act as lawyers for children
because "most were incompetent and often acted in ways that
were not in children's best interests".
Educate lawyers, judges and court staff about domestic
violence and child abuse, "particularly the psychological
coercion and control used by perpetrators to manipulate
people (including court staff) and proceedings".
Justice Minister Judith Collins said she was working with the
Police and Social Development ministers to develop "a
comprehensive package to further address family violence and
support victims", which may include a British-style Victims
But she has said that changes would stop short of a
European-style inquisitorial system, which she has described
as "a more paternalistic approach to trying to elicit the
truth with no guarantee of better justice for victims or
Auckland barrister Allan Cooke, who chairs the Law Society's
family law section, said judges already had powers to issue
protection orders without notice to alleged perpetrators, and
he was open to more changes.
"We are certainly very interested in exploring around how we
would have a less adversarial model," he said.
But he said the courts also had to be mindful of the impact
of separating fathers from their children, and what would
happen if alleged offenders faced other charges as well as
Victoria University associate professor Elisabeth McDonald,
co-author of a 2011 book on rape law, said non-adversarial
options could be offered as an alternative to victims who
wanted domestic violence to stop but did not want to send
their partners to jail.
Labour leader David Cunliffe said a range of proposals should
be considered to avoid revictimising people through the court
"An inquisitorial approach is one, and others include perhaps
other changes to the laws of evidence," he said.
The report said many perpetrators had been abused themselves
and suggested intervening early and "holistically" in
families affected by abuse, focusing on "the needs of the
whole family and the ongoing needs of perpetrators, rather
than individuals only".
It also suggested removing the current limits on free
long-term counselling for both victims and perpetrators, and
educating children, parents and the general public about
respectful communication and caring relationships.
What they said
"People, as a society, need to understand that by the time
it's got physical, there have been months of systematic
psychological breakdown - months and months of it. No abuser
knocks their partner out on the first date, because you don't
get a second one.
"I'm married now, I've got another child, and he [ex-partner]
is still harassing me ... How can people get away when these
violent horrible men won't let them go?"
"I got arrested for male-versus-female assault, got reduced
to assault and then I got discharged without conviction ...
The system places you under even more stress, so it's not
surprising that there are then problems under bail
conditions, especially if things like access to the children
"My son's beating his wife, who's got three or four children.
But if I say something they're going to go into CYF care,
he'll go to jail, and where am I left? They're not going to
ever talk to me again."
"We need to look, as a society, at our values. The people
that have been lucky in life need to start looking at
[asking], 'How can I help those around us?"'
- Simon Collins of NZ Herald