Call for clarity on family violence statistics

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 13:51 21/05/2012

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Family violence incidents jumped by more than 2000 last year, showing the need "now more than ever" for a change in the way the facts were recorded, say police.

Figures released to Stuff under the Official Information Act showed police investigated 86,722 cases of domestic violence last year - 2049 more than in 2010.

Of those, 40,024 were for actual offences and the rest were recorded as "non-offence investigations".

In 2010, those figures were 84,673 callouts to domestic violence incidents, with 42,108 offences recorded.

Alarmingly, 46,791 children were at homes where police were carrying out family violence investigations, and 96,181 children were recorded as being present or normally residing at scene addresses where a family violence callout was sparked.

Police statistics manager Gavin Knight said the latter figure however, would most likely be lower in reality because separate investigation reports were completed for each incident - meaning some children could be recorded more than once.

In their annual release of crime statistics earlier this year police held back figures relating to family violence, sparking an outcry that not enough importance was being placed on its prevention.

But Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush said changes to way the figures were being reported made last year's figures difficult to interpret.

"Family Violence statistics were not included in the public release of the 2011 calendar year statistics because we are improving the way collect information to give us a better picture of this complex issue. This will be in line with international best practice.

"Because of this, the statistics we have for last year are not comparable to data we have released before."

He said police had changed they way they were reporting figures to be more in line with Australia's system, but until they had a fuller set of figures, the information would be of little value.

Statistics around family violence were often vague in their complexity as each offence had to be counted as it was recorded. Bush said there was no offence of "family violence".

"No one is put before the courts to answer a charge of family violence."

Women's Refuge however said the figures were misleading.

A spokeswoman said there were disparities between the numbers of callouts and the numbers of arrests.

"We are concerned that although police are attending more family violence call outs than ever, the number of actual offences recorded is dropping.

She said it was worrying that it seemed as if police were attending more callouts, but making less arrests because certain offences were not deemed serious enough.

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"In this regard we were disappointed to hear Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush note on radio New Zealand that while police were attending more family violence call outs, the police were finding it was low level offending - we think that some context around what constitutes 'low level offending' is required," the spokeswoman said.

- Stuff

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