There is widespread acceptance that the incidence and level of family violence in New Zealand is a national disgrace, and that we presently need distinct and effective action on a number of aspects of this problem. This is not to decry further research, but there are important things which we can and should safely do now.
The Law Commission was asked to undertake three projects on family violence and sexual violence. The first Report (R136), which has already been tabled in Parliament, was as to alternative models for prosecuting and trying criminal cases. It is still under active consideration by the administration.
The second (R138) addresses the case for a new offence in our criminal code, of non-fatal strangulation. It too has been delivered to Parliament and is under consideration.
This third Report (R139) addresses whether the law in respect of the position of a victim of family violence who kills their abuser can be improved. It addresses the long troublesome issues of self-defence, partial defences and sentencing principles. These are all areas which raise difficult criminal law issues.
The three Reports the Commission has lodged are not the only possibilities in this unhappy area of criminology and will form part of a broader package being considered by Parliament. But they have the potential to greatly improve law relating to the position of the victims of family violence.
We are heartened by the public response to the Reports which are already in the public domain. As many commentators have already noted – our proposals “will take courage”, but we are firmly of the view that real change is needed in this unhappy area of human interaction.
Sir Grant Hammond