Protection orders no saviour, experts say

SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 18:41 16/01/2014

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The Dunedin tragedy shows protection orders are "just a piece of paper", family violence experts say.

Edward Livingstone twice breached protection orders by phone contact last year, before apparently shooting his two children and taking his own life.

A protection order breach is defined as breaking any of the conditions of the order and can include harassment, abuse, damage to property or threats.

The maximum penalty for breaches is two years in prison.

Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare said protection orders were only as successful as how they were used and enforced.

"It's not going to stop anyone from harming or killing a woman just because they've got an order, it's about how they're used," she said.

"At the end of the day, if someone is hellbent on hurting their partner or their partner's children, they're going to do that."

The Dunedin case was a reminder that family violence needed to be taken seriously in this country, with stronger consequences for breaches, she said.

"It's an absolute tragedy because she's done all the right things. She's taken protection orders, sought support and advice, she's notified the police about breaches, she's done everything she possibly can.

"But she wasn't able to keep her children safe, and my heart goes out to her. How someone is supposed to recover from this, I don't know."

Family law specialist Catriona Doyle said the Family Court was effective at processing applications for protection, but described the order itself as "just a piece of paper".

"How effective it is depends on how well the woman is prepared to call the police for breaches of it, and it then depends on whether the police react well to breaches," she said.

"In my experience, they do..

"But I don't know how effective they are at changing men's behaviour, I don't know how effective they are at changing women's behaviour – a protection order doesn't stop them having contact with their ex – and I don't know how effective it is at encouraging them and strengthening them to make complaints."

ORDERS BREACHED

Number of people convicted of breaching protection orders, by court location

Court location 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013*

Christchurch 145 166 125 140 87

Hamilton 88 118 113 109 51

Rotorua 86 83 89 84 45

Auckland 89 85 83 94 41

Dunedin 50 33 48 49 27

Wellington 60 47 49 58 20

* Up to June 30, 2013

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- Fairfax Media

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