Changes to Family Violence Bill could extend police safety orders

Justice Minister Andrew Little has announced amendments to the Family and Whānau Violence Bill, including the extension of police safety orders.  

The changes are designed to strengthen the legislative foundations of the family violence system, the Government said in a press release. 

"This Government has reiterated addressing family violence is a priority in its work to improve the wellbeing of families and children, and our aim is to reduce the harm that family violence causes in New Zealand," said Mr Little.

"One of the main changes is allowing police safety orders to protect victims for up to ten days. This will provide victims with more time to put in place safety arrangements at a crucial point in time."

Currently, a police safety order (PSO) can only last for up to five days.

Other changes to the Bill include "modernising" the Domestic Violence Act to "improve its usability", alongside "further recognising the coercion and control elements of family violence". 

The Bill would also be amended to require assessors and providers to "take into account victim views" and specify that "dowry abuse it a form of family violence". 

The Bill was introduced to Parliament in May 2016 following "extensive public consultation on family violence law reform," Mr Little said. It passed its second reading in Parliament on Tuesday with "unanimous support," he added. 

Mr Little said the Government inherited the legislation form the previous National-led Government. 

All parties in Parliament supported it at that time, he told Newshub, but there was "certainly a view amongst the parties now in Government that changes could be made to improve it."

Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence), Jan Logie of the Greens, said: "We identified in the select committee report that more can be done - that more must be done."

But not all of the Government's proposals to support domestic violence have been supported by the Opposition.

Victims of domestic violence will soon be entitled to 10 days of paid leave from the workplace - a Bill put forward by Ms Logie which passed with support from the Green's Government partners Labour and New Zealand First in June.  

National opposed the Bill, saying it could negatively impact women if employers choose not to take them on in case they take the leave. 

The new leave provision will be in place from April 2019.