1 Nov 2012

Judge wants domestic violence made criminal offence

3:42 pm on 1 November 2012

The Principal Family Court Judge wants domestic violence made a criminal offence in its own right.

In his final speech before stepping down, Judge Peter Boshier has declared it untenable that no such charge currently exists.

Vanuatu deems domestic violence an offence under its law, and Judge Boshier says New Zealand should consider doing the same.

He says creating a specific charge would brand the crime in the same way that drink-driving or drug-manufacturing is acknowledged.

Judge Boshier says a domestic violence charge could be laid alongside an assault count, for example, rather than on its own.

The judge says a law change would not be difficult, and may involve the Sentencing Act being amended rather than a new law being drawn up.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says while she's always willing to look at new ideas, she would need to be very careful in her consideration of this one.

Jonathan Krebs convenor of the Law Society's Criminal Law Committee, says an investigation into a new charge would be useful.

He says the society would also support a suggestion by Judge Boshier to have tougher sentences for other assault charges if domestic violence is a factor.

Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare also supports Judge Boshier's comments.

She says having a specific charge would help to gather more accurate information about domestic violence, which is lacking in this country.