Domestic violence agencies have raised the alarm about a
sharp decline in police prosecutions for family violence
offences over the past four years.
New figures issued by the Family Violence Clearinghouse at
Auckland University show that charges for male assaults
against female, applications for protection orders and
prosecutions for breaches of protection orders all increased
up to 2009-10, but have all fallen since then by between 14
per cent and 29 per cent.
The number of police investigations into family violence
incidents kept on climbing from 86,800 in 2010 to 95,100
incidents last year.
But the number of investigations that led to an offence being
recorded dropped from 45,500 to 37,900 -- from 52 per cent of
all incidents investigated in 2010 to 40 per cent last year.
Women's Refuge policy and research officer Kiri Hannifin said
the figures were alarming.
"I find it extraordinary," she said.
The decline coincided with a new power given to police from
July 2010 to issue "police safety orders", which require an
alleged offender to leave the family home for a few days, she
said. The orders were supposed to fill a gap in cases where
there was no evidence of an offence, but Ms Hannifin said
they appeared to be linked to fewer offences being recorded.
"The question to be asked is whether or not [recorded]
offences are so low because police safety orders are being
Jane Drumm of the Auckland agency Shine said prosecutions had
also dropped because of new prosecution guidelines issued by
the Crown Law Office in 2010, and updated in 2013, which
"raised the bar" of evidence required for prosecutions.
The new guidelines encouraged prosecutors to make "plea
arrangements" with defence lawyers where "releasing the saved
costs in court and judicial time, prosecution costs and legal
aid resources [could] be better deployed in other areas".
Ms Hannifin said: "We are dealing with a police force that
has been told to lower the [reported] crime rate, we have a
court system that has been told to speed up and save costs,
and we have an issue that isn't spoken about very much."
However, Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Dave Trappitt
said police had always followed Crown Law's prosecution
guidelines so the recent changes "did not impact on the
decision-making within the police prosecution service".
"Each charge requires the test for evidential sufficiency to
be passed before then applying the public interest test," he
said. "This has not changed."
A Crown Law spokeswoman said: "There was no intention in
these changes to raise the bar for domestic violence cases."
* On the web: www.nzfvc.org.nz