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New law hopes to make it easier for domestic abuse victims to testify, amid alarming strangulation rates

Alarming statistics have put the spotlight back on New Zealand's shocking domestic violence rates, but a new law hopes to make it easier for victims to testify against their abuser.

In New Zealand, on average, police attend a domestic violence incident once every four minutes. New information shows how many people are strangled in those incidents. 

The number of people charged with strangulation since a new law was introduced on December 3 has soared, with nearly 30 people having been charged within the first 11 days. That number is now over 250.

The damning statistics come as the Government looks at ways to make it easier for victims to testify in court. The new strangulation law is part of a wider government plan to reduce New Zealand's high domestic and sexual violence rates.

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    A staggering number of people have been charged with strangulation since a new law was introduced in December. Source: 1 NEWS

    Minister of Juctice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues) under-secretary Jan Logie said there were 252 victims, who are known about, who "have had their life teeter".

    "If your partner strangles you, then you're seven times more likely to be murdered by your partner," she said.

    Ms Logie said a proposal will be brought to Cabinet in the next few weeks which would change the court system to make it easier for victims to testify.

    She hoped for a justice system that works and doesn't leave victims more traumatised at the end of the process, she said.

    However, defence lawyers are apprehensive about changes, saying it could make the system biased towards the victim.

    "The trial system is not a forum for a complainant to feel vindicated. The trial system is to fairly assess the guilt or innocence or whether the crown has proven the case beyond reasonable doubt," defence lawyer Marie Dyhrberg said.

    Until it is clear on the parameters which define strangulation, it may take up to two years to get firm case law, she said.

    But, even with the statistic as high as it is, many cases have still yet to be tested in court. 

    Natalie Thorburn, from Women's Refuge, said, "it's something that we often ignore or we don't acknowledge the extremely severe consequences of strangulation and that's the benefit of this change.

    "That then leads to a deterrence when it starts to become really visible that the New Zealand justice system is responding with the seriousness that this crime deserves."

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      The new strangulation law is part of a wider Government plan to reduce NZ’s high domestic and sexual violence rates. Source: 1 NEWS