New defence urged for victims of abuse

A new report looking at family violence is recommending that a partial defence be introduced for repeat victims who lash out at their abusers.

And the Family Violence Death Review Committee is also calling on organisations, including the police, to provide better preventative methods to protect victims -- mostly women and children.

The independent committee today releases its fourth report, looking at family violence homicides between 2009 and 2012.

Committee chairwoman and associate professor of law Julia Tolmie said at present there is no partial defence for people who lash out at their abuser, causing death.

She said New Zealand should think about adopting similar laws to other countries, where a victim of family violence may have a murder charge reduced to manslaughter.

The data showed that between 2009 and 2012, a total of 139 people were killed in family violence-related incidents.

David White, the father of murder victim Helen Meads, applauded the report. In 2009, Ms Meads was shot dead by her husband days after telling him she was leaving him.

Mr White said he supported the report's recommendations, particularly for more campaigns to encourage people to take action to help those affected by domestic abuse.

"I so believed Helen when she said, 'It's all right dad, I'm safer with the girls.' But of course she wasn't. If I had just made one phone call to the Women's Refuge and described Helen's situation, they would have told me to get her out."

Mr White is now a White Ribbon ambassador and works closely alongside Women's Refuge groups. He has written a book about his family's experience throughout the tragedy.

He said his daughter's girls had received huge support from family and friends immediately after their mother's death and throughout the years.

But more could be done, he said.

"We were extremely lucky that we had a lot of good help for the two girls, but they're talking about proper psychological help and guidance, which I think is good."

- Vaimoana Tapaleao of the New Zealand Herald

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