Judges to get better family violence info

  • 27/08/2015
(Simon Wong/3 News)
(Simon Wong/3 News)

By Sarah Robson

Judges don't always have full information about an alleged offender's family violence record when they're making bail decisions.

But that is set to change as judges in Porirua and Christchurch trial a new initiative that will mean that from September 1 they'll get a detailed report about a defendant's history if they're facing family violence-related charges.

The so-called "family violence summary report" will include information about all recorded family violence incidents involving the defendant.

It will also include details about police safety orders or protection orders, as well as any breaches of these.

Justice Minister Amy Adams says judges have raised concerns with her about the information they're getting.

"We need judges to have the full information in front of them about an offender's record in family violence," she told reporters.

"That wasn't always happening, I didn't think that was good enough."

At the moment, judges only get detailed family violence information if police oppose bail.

The new initiative will mean the information will be provided regardless of whether police oppose bail or not.

Ms Adams says she's heard anecdotal reports from judges that they would often find out after the event information they didn't know when they made a bail decision.

"That sits pretty heavily on their shoulders," she said.

"You can understand why they're concerned. They don't know what they don't know and they were reliant on whether or not that was put in front of them by police."

Ms Adams wants judges to have all the details in front of them "so when they made a decision it's as well informed as it can be".

The pilot initiative will run for three months, though Ms Adams is keen to see it rolled out nationwide as quickly as possible.

"We have to do all we can to make sure family violence victims are protected and this is certainly a step along that path."

Earlier this month Ms Adams announced detailed plans for a complete overhaul of the way the justice system deals with family violence.