Protection 'too hard for battered women to get'
Protection orders are too difficult for battered women to get from the courts, campaigners against domestic violence say.
Figures show the number of final – or permanent – orders granted by the Family Court have dropped by more than 1700 over the last decade.
However, the Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshiery said today it was actually easier than ever for battered women to get a protection order from a court.
Mr Boshier said judges would grant protection orders if there was evidence they were necessary.
The High Court had made it clear the rights of the order's respondent "should not be compromised" when orders were made, he said.
Under a protection order an abuser is banned from contact with the victim and their children, making threats or encouraging others to carry out violent or threatening acts. A temporary order can be made by a Family Court judge in an emergency and become permanent in three months.
Between July 1998 and June 1999, 4322 were granted, compared to 2595 in the year to June 2010.
Temporary orders went from 5247 to 3171 over the same period.
Kiri Hannifin, of Women's Refuge, said research showed it had become hard to convince a court to grant a protection order.
She said women did not apply for protection orders because of a lack of information. They also feared their partner's reaction and worried their children would be taken from them. Many were also concerned about the cost if they could not get legal aid.
"Violent crime – that relates to domestic violence – has increased over the same period. Women are dying in greater numbers but not seeking protection. It's a real concern."
Waikato University community psychologist Neville Robertson believed on-the-spot police orders, which came into force this month, could exacerbate the problem.
"Judges may be even less willing to give one unless you have got a police order.
"I think that some judges would say if it's really that bad then get a police order. It's a cut-rate justice for battered women."
He agreed it was difficult to get protection orders without facing an attacker in court. "The figures tell a story. The threshold has been raised and fewer women are going to attempt to jump that higher hurdle."
Green MP Catherine Delahunty obtained the figures from the Government. They show a slight increase in orders granted in the last half of the decade, but nowhere near the levels of the late 1990s.
Although she welcomed the introduction of on-the-spot orders, she was horrified at estimates from Justice Minister Simon Power that police could issue 20,000 a year.
"It's appalling. Violence towards women is still seen as acceptable behaviour. What are the barriers to women coming forward? We know this [the drop in orders granted] isn't due to a drop in domestic violence."
A spokesman for Mr Power said the number of protection orders sought was stable between 2004 and 2009. "There is no reason to believe police safety orders will affect the decisions of judges when issuing protection orders on application. The safety order regime is more likely to increase the number of protection orders than decrease them."
- With NZPA