Sir Owen Glenn’s long-awaited blueprint for tackling family violence wants judges in domestic violence cases to become European-style “inquisitors”, questioning everyone involved to determine the truth and direct the outcome.
The two-year inquiry also proposes mandatory electronic tagging of people subject to protection orders, which are often derided as “just a piece of paper”.
It wants tough new alcohol laws, including higher taxes and raising the legal drinking age to 20, plus a new dedicated family violence agency to make sure people carry out court orders such as requirements to attend non-violence programmes.
The main proposals were welcomed by new Justice Minister Amy Adams, who this week asked the Law Commission to resume work on an inquisitorial system for sexual abuse cases to save victims from being retraumatised by aggressive questioning by adversarial lawyers. Her predecessor, Judith Collins, stopped the work in 2012.
An earlier “People’s Report”, published by the inquiry in June, said the changes should “revisit the burden of proof so that it lies with perpetrators, not victims”.
The final “People’s Blueprint” does not go quite so far, but says: “The inquisitorial approach neutralises the advantage that a well-funded party has over a respondent with scant resources, including the ability to drag out court processes to frustrate or ‘burn off’ the other party. Removing the crude ‘he said, she said’ contest also makes the onus of proof less relevant because the judge, not an adversarial lawyer, leads the inquiry.”
The report recommends creating a new Family Violence Court, led by judges alone without juries, to handle all matters involving alleged family violence, including arguments over the care of children which are now heard in the Family Court.
It proposes restoring free pre-court counselling that was axed in Ms Collins’ Family Court reforms last year, restoring wider availability of legal aid that was also cut, more victims’ advocates, a “resource co-ordinator” to link with alcohol and other treatment programmes, and a new family violence crisis phone line for people who don’t want to call the police or Child, Youth and Family.
For perpetrators, it proposes both electronic monitoring and dedicated houses for men who have been required by police safety orders to leave home for a few days.
The report says 80 per cent of offenders in the criminal courts have alcohol or drug problems. It recommends raising the alcohol purchase age to 20, raising excise tax on alcohol by 50 per cent and imposing minimum prices, shutting bottle stores by 10pm and bars by 4am, and curbing alcohol ads and sponsorship.
Many of the report’s ideas seem likely to win bipartisan support in Parliament.
Labour promised at the recent election to revive the Law Commission’s work on an inquisitorial system for sexual violence cases and to implement the commission’s alcohol proposals. New justice spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said yesterday the party would support “looking at” higher alcohol prices.
But Tauranga psychologist Hans Laven, who published a “counter-balancing” report on family violence this week, said inquisitorial courts would restore “witch-hunts” seen before the adversarial justice system evolved over the past 200 years.
What is the Glenn inquiry?
The inquiry was set up by entrepreneur Sir Owen Glenn to produce a “blueprint” to reduce child abuse and domestic violence.Who produced it?
Unlike an official commission of inquiry, there were no commissioners. Sir Owen appointed a director, who recruited expert advisers and facilitators who heard submissions. The final blueprint was written by AUT Maori health professor Denise Wilson and Auckland University education researcher Dr Melinda Webber.
What has it cost?
Was it all worth it?
The inquiry has kept a public focus on NZ’s family violence problem and has probably helped foster a political consensus on tackling it.
Ups and downs
July 2012: Sir Owen Glenn announces he is putting $80 million, a tenth of his fortune, into ending child abuse in NZ.
Sept 2012: Ruth Herbert appointed as director of inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence.
Sept 2012: Glenn files court claim for US$350 million ($450 million) against a former business partner who helped set up his family trust.
Feb 2013: Most of Glenn’s grants to tackle child abuse are frozen because of family trust dispute.
May 2013: Ruth Herbert and many experts resign over fears of inadequate confidentiality.
June 2013: Charges from 2002 against Glenn over alleged physical abuse of a young woman in Hawaii are disclosed; most remaining experts resign.
June 2014: Inquiry publishes “People’s Report” on experiences of family violence.
June 2014: Glenn files court actions against Eric Watson over investments including Warriors.
Sept 2014: Glenn says he will close his NZ charitable foundation when the inquiry ends.
Oct 2014: Inquiry board member Donna Grant takes leave of absence after education officials found a tourism training course she ran was over-funded.
Nov 2014: Inquiry’s estimate family violence costs the country up to $7 billion a year is found to be flawed.
Nov 2014: “People’s Blueprint” published.
Angel’s kindness gave Jude another chance
Jude Simpson turned her life around and now has a job as victims manager at the Police College in Porirua. Photo / Nic BarkleyThe key thing Jude Simpson has learned from half a lifetime of horrific abuse is the value of a “soft heart”.
Ms Simpson, 55, was abused by her stepmother from the time her mother left the family home when Ms Simpson was 10.
She became pregnant at 16 to the first of four abusive partners, who included a Mongrel Mob member and a bank robber. One of them tattooed his name and “No1” on Ms Simpson’s hand.
She lost custody of her first two children, and finally broke away from the last partner with her youngest two children to start a new life in Tauranga when she was 36. She started a new job last month as the first victims manager of the Police College in Porirua.
She said her life changed soon after moving to Tauranga when she attended a Work and Income personal development course. She has described the facilitator, Deb, as “an angel”.
“It always goes back to not judging a person and having a real kind and soft heart towards other people,” she said. “When I reflect back, one thing I would have wanted all the way through was for people to have been kind to me, people to ask me simple questions like am I okay, and looking beyond the behaviour – because when you are affected by family violence you take on all sorts of attitudes and that comes out in different ways of doing things. Look behind the behaviour and ask what’s going on.”
Her stepmother made Ms Simpson a virtual slave in the house, shouted abuse at her, made her wear clothes and hairstyles she hated, and eventually became physically violent. No teacher noticed until her injuries became obvious.
“Had there been a person with some knowledge of family violence, they would have been alerted to the fact that something was going on,” Ms Simpson said.
She believes teachers need training in how to identify the signs, and they need to know they can refer children to agencies such as Family Works if they do not want to call in Child, Youth and Family.
If children are loved and their self-respect is restored, then they are less likely to become either perpetrators or victims in adulthood.
“A lot of our perpetrators were once victims themselves,” Ms Simpson said. “It’s very hard because they do tell you they love you, and hurt you at the same time, and that’s what makes it so confusing. We all want to be loved.”