Proposed changes to the Family and Whanau Violence Bill should provide greater protection to victims of domestic violence.

At the moment the Police may issue a Police Safety Order (PSO) on the spot if they consider there to be reasonable grounds to believe that family violence has occurred or may occur.

The purpose of a PSO is to protect people at risk from violence.  When a PSO has issued the person bound by it must leave the address for the duration of the PSO and must not have any contact with the person deemed to be at risk whatsoever.  A PSO also protects any children living with the person at risk, which suspends any contact arrangements for the duration of the PSO.

At present, a PSO may only last up to five days.

On 12 September 2018 Justice Minister Andrew Little announced amendments to the Family and Whanau Violence Bill.  One of the main changes was the extension of PSO’s to protect victims for up to ten days.  The Minister stated at a recent press release that such an extension “will provide victims with more time to put in place safety arrangements”.  The extended time-frame will also allow people more time to consider whether they require a more permanent solution such as a protection order.

The Family Court can make a protection order under the Domestic Violence Act if they are satisfied that there has been physical, sexual or psychological abuse between people in domestic relationships and that an Order is necessary for the protection of the applicant and/or a child. 

In urgent circumstances, protection orders can be obtained very quickly and ‘without notice’ to the other person– often on the same day that you make the application.  In these circumstances when an Order is made it will be temporary and automatically become final after three months unless the other person opposes it. 

It is also possible to apply for orders giving the protected person the right to exclusively occupy a home (whether it is owned or rented, and in either party’s name) and use the household furniture and chattels.  In addition, there may be childcare and parenting issues which need to be addressed.

The extension of PSO’s to protect victims for up to ten days will allow further time for victims of domestic violence to consider their options and to obtain the advice that they need to make informed decisions for themselves and their families. 

More information

If you have been granted a PSO, we recommend that you seek legal advice to understand your options better and to keep you and your children safe in the long term.  If you have had a PSO made against you, we also recommend you seek legal advice to understand the implications of the PSO and the processes that might lie ahead.

If you would like any further information or advice about these matters, please contact our Wellington based family lawyers:

Debbie Dunbar | 04 495 9940

Anna Chapman | 04 495 8905

Maretta Twentyman | 04 495 8918

Annabel Sanders | 04 495 8927