Glenn Inquiry: Domestic violence 'a disaster'
Domestic violence in New Zealand is a slow-burning disaster says Sir Owen Glenn.
"That might sound dramatic or like an exaggeration but the blueprint shows evidence that, if anything, the problem is getting worse."
The Glenn Inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence, which was set up in September 2012 and, after a troubled history when it came close to being derailed, has reported back with its recommendations in its second report - In The People's Blueprint - today.
It provided the basis for a coherent, integrated strategy to break the cycle of violence, Glenn said.
"We have got to re-design systems across the whole of our society."
Glenn said peaceful tinkering and band-aid solutions were no longer enough.
"We've been doing that for the past 20 years. What we need is a cultural shift."
The Patron of the Glenn Inquiry, Dame Catherine Tizard, said "we are mad as Hell" and the findings show victims are running out of patience for a "broken" system.
Tizard and Glenn called the report a practical call to action.
"It's not a smorgasbord," says Tizard, "we're not open to cherry-picking or compromise. Victims don't have time for political argy-bargy."
Bill Wilson, QC, said "we found many cases of people breaching protections orders – the blueprint says if there's justification for protection orders there is justification for electronic monitoring."
The cost of implementing the blueprint's recommendations has not been estimated yet.
The inquiry called for a rise in the price of alcohol and a new family violence court system.
In a foreword to the report, inquiry chairman Bill Wilson, QC, said he feared New Zealand society had become accustomed to living with very high family violence rates.
He believed the report would be "a lightning rod for turning the statistics around".
"The inquiry does not claim to have all the answers. The aim is to build a cohesive system around existing services to guide, fund and support them to increase their reach and impact, to help save and restore more lives."
The report estimated annual costs related to child abuse and family violence at between $4.1 billion and $7b, including $3.6b related to ongoing and long term pain and suffering. At the same time, many non-government organisations and community providers of family violence services were affected by funding insecurity.
The report called for the Government to urgently adopt central recommendations that it discarded or only party addressed from the Law Commission's 2010 report into alcohol.
They included a 50 per cent increase in excise tax and a minimum price for alcohol, moves to restrict alcohol advertising and sponsorship, lifting the purchase age to 20, and cutting back trading hours.
The Government should appoint a dedicated family violence minister, preferably the prime minister or deputy prime minister, with responsibility for leading the development of a long term cross-party strategy to eliminate child abuse and family violence, the report said.
It should also set up a stand-alone operational agency to implement the cross-party strategy.
A new family violence court system should be set up, with staff who could supervise court orders and directions effectively. The system would assure the safety and protection of those affected by violence, while those who inflicted it were held accountable.
"The combative nature of adversarial justice re-victimises and re-traumatises people seeking help and protection, and exacerbates power and wealth imbalances," the report said.
"People feel judges, professionals and court staff are poorly trained and ignorant of the reality of living with family violence, and the psychological abuse and manipulative powers of those who inflict violence.
"They feel those who inflict the hurt are not always held accountable. The system is inflexible and draws an unhelpful line between the criminal and civil jurisdictions when it comes to the complex dynamics of family relationships."
The inquiry has had a chequered history, with top staff and most members of an advisory panel quitting in its first year.
In June 2013, the Sunday Star-Times revealed Glenn had pleaded no contest to a charge of physically abusing a woman in Hawaii in 2002. The charges were dismissed in 2004 at the end of a probationary period, and Glenn denied the allegations.
September 2012: The Glenn Inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence was launched, with Sir Owen Glenn saying it would produce an evidence-based blueprint that could set New Zealand as a world leader in addressing child abuse and domestic violence.
May 2013: Executive director Ruth Herbert and operations director Jessica Trask quit the inquiry. They said their decisions to resign resulted from "a culmination of events that have occurred over a period of time". A newly-appointed governance board was formed, led by former Supreme Court judge Bill Wilson, QC, who said there had been a breakdown in the relationship between Glenn and Herbert.
June 2013: The Sunday Star-Times revealed Glenn pleaded no contest to a charge of physically abusing a woman in Hawaii in 2002, but hadn't declared the incident to the inquiry or the government anti-violence campaign White Ribbon, to which he had applied to become an ambassador. The charges were dismissed. Glenn denied the allegations and said he did not mention them on disclosures made to the inquiry and White Ribbon because they were untrue. He withdrew his nomination to become a White Ribbon ambassador.
More staff left the inquiry as did most members of the inquiry's 38-member advisory panel including broadcaster Carol Hirschfeld, Waikato University professor Neville Robertson, and Anton Blank, the executive director of Maori welfare organisation Ririki.
Alex Port, who had sat on inquiry interview panels before quitting, warned the safety of domestic violence victims being interviewed was in jeopardy. A review of security found no issues around the safety of how victims' information was held, although some processes were inadequate. Herbert and Trask said they disputed many parts of the review.
June 2014: The Glenn Inquiry publishes its first report, summarising the experiences of about 500 survivors of abuse, frontline workers, and offenders who told their stories to the inquiry.
July 2014: Herbert produced her own report with suggested solutions to family violence.
Today: The inquiry published its second report The People's Blueprint, containing recommendations for reducing child abuse and family violence.