Note: This story first ran on Sunday May 6
Lawyer Catriona MacLennan who is facing a Law Society hearing as a result of her criticism told Corin Dann on TVNZ’s Q+A programme that New Zealand judges need a lot more training in domestic violence law.
In a Queenstown district court tomorrow a 58-year-old man with name suppression will be sentenced for assaulting his wife, daughter and male friend.
When he first faced the judge at the end of last year, he was granted a discharge without conviction.
The judge, John Brandts Giesen expressed some sympathy saying, "there would be many people who would have done exactly what you did, even though it may be against the law to do so."
The police appealed the sentence, but not before the judge's comments and decision were criticised by a number of people including Ms MacLennan.
Ms MacLennan is now being investigated by the Law Society's National Standards Committee for comments she made as a spokeswoman for the Auckland Coalition for the Safety of Women and Children.
Penalties the committee can impose including censuring Ms MacLennan, ordering an apology, fining her up to $15,000 and order her to pay the costs of the committee's investigation.
Unapologetic about speaking up she says, "I've been saying for a long time that I think judges need a lot more training in domestic violence (law),"
"This court of appeal decision last year certainly confirmed what I and other domestic violence advocates have been saying, the domestic violence act is excellent law, it is not being interpreted and applied properly by judges."
On Thursday the Auckland Women Lawyer's Association president Kathryn Beck, penned an open letter sharing concerns about the investigation into Ms MacLennon.
Ms MacLennan, who's been commenting on domestic violence issues in the media for two decades also spoke to Dann about changes she wants to see in her profession.
"Obviously there's quite a number of issues that the Law Society's dealing with in relation to sexual assault and sexual harrassment, and the Law Society has just done a questionnaire of lawyers. I was disappointed that didn't include domestic violence."
She said she wants the society to take a leadership position on the issue that affects every corner of society.
She believes the law profession seems ancient in its attitudes partly because male lawyers are not speaking up.
"We need is for male lawyers to speak out, there's been pretty much a deafening silence from them."
"Sexual assault and sexual harassment are not women's issues, it's men that are the perpetrators so we need male lawyers to step up and engage with this and they need to make it culturally unacceptable to behave like that."