Family violence response guides launched

Amy Adams, Minister of Justice and Minister for Courts, and Anne Tolley, Minister for Social Development and Minister for Children, have launched family violence response guides at a Family Violence Summit in Wellington.

“Family Violence is a complex issue in New Zealand with no single solution. We are making it our priority to help reduce the rate of family violence in New Zealand.”
Hon Amy Adams, Minister of Justice

“We want to draw on the expertise of NGOs and the frontline sector to inform our efforts to build a more integrated system and break the cycle of violence.”
Hon Anne Tolley, Minister for Social Development


Family violence response guides launched

New guides to support the family violence sector to provide consistent and effective help to victims and perpetrators are being launched today by Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley at the Family Violence Summit in Wellington.

Over 120 key players in the family violence sector are attending the Summit today to build on conversations to date about how to work together better to tackle New Zealand’s horrific rate of family violence.

“Thousands of New Zealand families are affected by family violence every day and too many of them are not getting all the help they need,” Ms Adams says.

“The current system for dealing with family violence is too fragmented so in addition to the work we’re doing to improve it, including the Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill and the Integrated Safety Response pilots, we’ve developed a framework which sets out common understanding of family violence, a clear protocol for assessing risk, and a consistent approach for supporting victims and perpetrators.

“The Risk Assessment and Management Framework aims to ensure that no matter who a victim or perpetrator approaches for help, the risks they face will be consistently identified, assessed and managed.”

Alongside the Risk Assessment and Management Framework, a guide outlining the capabilities needed by those in the family violence sector to successfully support victims, perpetrators and their families is also being launched.

“The family violence workforce is large and complex, involving government agencies, family and sexual violence specialists, NGOs and practitioners. There is a wide range of different practices and understandings, resulting in varying degrees of effectiveness,” says Mrs Tolley.

“The Workforce Capability Framework outlines the skills, knowledge and organisational support the workforce needs in order to provide an integrated, consistent and effective response to victims, perpetrators and their families.

“Both frameworks have been developed with the help of the sector, some of whom are at the Summit today. By working together we stand a much stronger chance of achieving better outcomes for victims and their families.”

Outcomes from the Summit will feed into and inform the work of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. Sector members who could not attend the Summit are invited to give their views via an online survey.

The frameworks can be found here.


See NZ Herald:  Family violence: New holistic approach announced

Study: teenage violence a serious problem

According to a NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse paper Dr Melanie Beres that has just been released teenage violence and sexual abuse are serious problems – we already knew that but this has quantified it.

NZ Herald: NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse study on adolescent relationship violence revealed

Report’s findings

  • Up to 60 per cent of high school students have been in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship.
  • 29 per cent of New Zealand secondary students reported being hit or harmed by another person in the previous year.
  • 20 per cent of female and 9 per cent of male secondary school students reported having experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the previous year. The majority of incidents were perpetrated by a boyfriend, girlfriend or friend.
  • 21 per cent of women who stayed in women’s refuges were aged 15-19 years.
  • ​About 9 per cent of New Zealand secondary school students said they were attracted to people of the same-sex, or unsure of their sexual attraction, and up 3 per cent identified as transgender or unsure of their gender identity.
  • ​Compared with other New Zealanders, adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 have the highest rates of intimate partner violence, according to the New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey.
  • ​Intimate-partner violence is perpetrated by and against people from all communities, ethnic groups and socio-economic backgrounds, but marginalised groups are at higher risk.

Dr Melanie Beres:

“Adolescence is a key time where we learn about how to have intimate relationships”.

“If our introduction to relationships is around issues of power and control and emotional abuse this can influence later relationships in life”

“Boys are taught to be tough, strong and in control. They are taught that they should want sex and it’s their job to initiate and ‘get’ it.”

“Girls are taught to be polite and to be nurturers by looking after the feelings of others . . . They are cautioned that being “too sexual” is a risk for them because boys cannot control themselves.”

“There was talk that they are good boys who made a mistake rather than looking at their behaviour and saying this is a problem, there’s a bigger issue here.”

“This is not just about these two individuals, this is actually about a social problem we have in the ways young men are taught to perceive young women and talk about young women.”

“If we are serious about solving this issue we need to put more resources into primary prevention to look at building healthy relationships rather than intervening when things are already pear shaped.

“It’s about learning how to value other things in men and women.”

Newstalk ZB: Revealed: Damning stats show teenage abuse a serious problem in NZ

Paper author Dr Melanie Beres, of the University of Otago, said there are two separate issues at play.

She said it shows “the severity of what does and can happen in adolescent relationships”.

“It also speaks to the lack of support around those individuals, in terms of needing to seek that support,” she said.

Dr Beres said violence within adolescent relationship often falls through the cracks.

“We think that they’re fleeting and that next week they’ll have a different love interest, so that also extents to the way in which adults think about violence in adolescent relationships.”

Big problems with no easy or quick solutions, but more has to be done.

Trump: standing up to hate and intolerance

Doing what a president needs to do – speaking against hate and intolerance, and against violence.

Politico: Trump in tweet: Portland attack ‘unacceptable’

President Donald Trump on Monday morning condemned the attacks in Portland, Oregon, where two people were killed after trying to intervene as a man delivered an anti-Muslim rant directed at two women on a train.

The tweet was sent after Trump arrived to give remarks at the Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day.

On Saturday, three men were allegedly attacked after they tried to stop a suspect, Jeremy Joseph Christian, from verbally disparaging the women, one of whom was wearing a hijab.

 

“Trotter at his best”

Blazer said this was Trotter at his best…

I’m not so sure, unless that refers to his best at generalisation, labelling and taking sides in messy wars.

Bowalley (and The Daily Blog): Us and Them: The Fatal Divisions of Exploitative Culture.

OURS IS NOT JUST A RAPE CULTURE: it’s a Kill Culture, a Rip-off Culture and a Lie Culture as well. But, rather than attempting to reconcile ourselves to living in a multiplicity of malign cultures, it is probably more helpful to think of ourselves as inhabiting a single Exploitative Culture. One in which human-beings are consistently treated as means to another’s end – not as ends in themselves.

Cultures are far more complex than that. Labelling a whole society with negative culture tags is generally counter productive to sensible and reasoned discussion.

The trick to running a successful Exploitative Culture, therefore, lies in defining who is – and who is not – a member of it. Or, to put it another way: who is included in the idea of “Us”, and who belongs with “Them”.

Generally speaking the smaller the “Us”, the greater the power. If you’re a member of the “One Percent”, for example, it not only means that you are obscenely wealthy and powerful, but also that 99 percent of your fellow human-beings are, in one way or another, exploitable.

This sort of generalisation doesn’t help either. Yes, richer people are possibly more likely to exploit others (but are by no means the only ones who do that). But richer people are also more likely to contribute donations, and larger donations, to good causes.

Exploitation is always and everywhere associated with actual physical violence, or the threat of it. Without violence people simply would not consent to being treated as the means to someone else’s ends – they would rebel.

I don’t agree with this. Threat of violence is far from the only thing necessary for exploitation.

Exploitative Culture (which is to say all culture) may thus be further defined as the organisation of, and the devising of justifications for, purposive social violence.

We thus return to “Us” and “Them”: which may now be thought of, respectively, as those who must be protected from the imposition of purposive violence; and those upon whom such violence may be inflicted with impunity.

Does Trotter think that ‘the one percent’ are the only ones who threaten or use violence?

Consider the current controversy surrounding “Operation Burnham” the botched, or exemplary (depending on whether you believe journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, or the Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force, Lt-General Tim Keating) attack on settlements in the Tirgiran Valley in Northern Afghanistan.

What happened in the Tirgiran Valley could not have happened if its inhabitants were regarded by the New Zealand soldiers taking part in the operation as members of “Us”.

Wars tend to have an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. The SAS soldiers were acting on behalf of the Afghan Government which was acting on behalf of more than 1% of the population.

The whole purpose of their book, Hit & Run, is to make the reader see the victims of Operation Burnham as people like themselves: hard-working farmers; a trainee schoolteacher home for the holidays; parents and grandparents; a three-year-old girl called Fatima. And the more successful the authors are at transforming “Them” into “Us”, the more outrageous Operation Burnham seems to the New Zealand public.

I don’t think the whole purpose of ‘Hit & Run’ was to support Trotter’s theories on ‘us & them’.

Trotter seems to have decided that the Hager & Stephenson book is 100% correct and that the victims of the attack were as claimed by some and were all innocent people just like ‘us’.

He ignores the fact that people from that area are also alleged to have been involved in violent attacks on other people in Afghanistan, rebelling against their government and supporting an extremely repressive Taliban.

For ordinary men to accept their subordination to stronger, richer and more powerful men, Exploitative Culture supplies them with their own inexhaustible supply of subordinates – women and children. And since there can be no exploitation – no power – without violence, the maintenance of this primal dichotomy is of necessity achieved through the unremitting application of physical and emotional coercion. Domestic violence, rape, child abuse: these are not just the products of the masculine/feminine dichotomy, they are also the most tragic expression of the “Us” and “Them” divide.

The non-consensual penetration of a young woman at a party; the invasion of a distant river valley by airborne special forces; both are symptoms of the same dreadful disease.

There are certainly strong links between war and violence (and rape has often been a weapon used in wars) and domestic violence and sexual assaults.

But I think it’s all a lot more complex than Trotter suggests. For a start the perpetrators of domestic violence are far from confined to some financial 1%.

People angry about escalating crime

People have expressed anger over the perceived inability of the police to do anything about escalating crime in a meeting in Thames. The Deputy Prime Minister was there to get the message (hopefully).

Stuff: Paula Bennett faces angry crowd at Thames meeting

The deputy prime minister faced a hostile crowd, fed-up with escalating crime, when she visited Thames.

Paula Bennett, who is also police minister, held a public meeting on Wednesday at the Thames War Memorial Civic Centre to discuss residents’ growing concern about assaults, burglaries and drug offences in the area.

The meeting was a full-house with many voicing their frustrations and holding signs saying they had “more teeth than the NZ police”.

There must be particular problems with crimes in the Thames area.

Ordinary people emotionally expressing concerns should give Bennett a strong message.

Thames High School student Paris Lee, 17, told Bennett a friend of hers was recently hospitalised with concussion after being attacked by other students.

“Those students should not be allowed back at our school and they are and they are scaring me and my friends. We can’t do anything about being attacked at school and the police can’t do anything about it.

“It’s so wrong, we don’t feel safe and we need that, all of us.”

Her mother, Jeanette Lee, said she was planning to leave the area to keep her child safe.

“I now have to leave because my child got a text saying ‘we know where you live, you’re next’ and the police can’t do anything about it.”

That sounds bad.

They may not have been encouraged by Bennett’s response.

Bennett disagreed, saying police, the school and the community could do something about it.

“Under 17 year olds can be held to account. They can’t get away with hitting people, they can’t get away with violence,” she said.

Could do something in theory can be different to being able to do anything effective in practice.

Bennett said Paris was brave to speak out and she made time to speak to her afterwards.

“There’s no way that you shouldn’t feel safe in school . . . that is our job and we want to talk to you.”

I think that a lot of people at school and on the streets and in their homes feel unsafe. I don’t know if Bennett will have been very reassuring.

After the meeting principal Dave Sim said there had been two incidents at the school recently.

He saw the assault last week and a student had been suspended, he said.

“There were a number of staff present and we acted quickly to diffuse the situation,” he said.

The board of trustees was now considering whether the student would return to school with conditions or be excluded from the school, he said.

An attack causing concussion should have more significant consequences than suspension from school. It sounds like a serious assault that could have caused ling term brain injuries.

One woman said she could no longer live in her own home after police took 35 minutes to attend a home invasion in her house earlier this year.

“I cannot live in my own home knowing it could happen again because thirty one minutes is a long time when you live on your own as a woman. How do I deal with that?”

Bennett said that must be “absolutely terrifying” for the woman.

Yes, it would be.

The Government recently announced an increase in police numbers by about a thousand, but numbers in press releases aren’t any comfort when people face real problems and fears in their communities, schools and homes.


Also in today’s news: Whangarei teenager’s skull fractured after roadside attack

Jay Rihia-Neumann, 16, was walking home with friends after school on Monday when six adults and two teenagers got out of a car on Corks Rd in Tikipunga and attacked them.

Adults attacking kids on their way home from school.

Joshua Neumann said his son was struck on the side of the head with an axe handle during the attack, on Jay and at least one of his friends.

Mr Neumann said it was a case of his son being in the wrong place at the wrong time and he believed the attack was linked to a dispute involving a one of his friends.

The 16-year-old Kamo High School student was rushed to Whangarei Hospital before he was transported to the Auckland City Hospital where he underwent a four-hour operation on Tuesday afternoon.

More awful violence.

Reaction to Family and Whanau Violence Bill

The Family and Whanau Violence Bill that was introduced into Parliament yesterday.

Family violence is a big issue. Violence not only affects the well being of adults and children in families, it has adverse flow on effects in health, education, crime, imprisonment rates and employment.

I can’t find any reaction from Labour.

Green MP Jan Logie in Stuff – Overhaul of family violence laws goes before Parliament:

Green Party women’s spokeswoman Jan Logie said the Government’s reforms were “an important first step”, but she still had concerns about inconsistencies in ensuring the safety of children.

Logie wanted the reinstatement of the Bristol clause, which would refuse abusive former partners access to their children until their safety was assured, and was also concerned about a lack of funding for support services like Women’s Refuge.

“If we’re going to be asking these organisations to do this extra service and they’re struggling to stay open and meet the demand, then it’s not going to work.”

Justice Minister Amy Adams…

…said the safety of children was an “absolutely paramount consideration” both in existing law and the family violence reforms.

“We’ve done a lot more in these reforms, but broadly speaking, the underlying rationale still remains, which…has always and continues to put the safety of children right at the forefront of decision-making.”

Then-Prime Minister John Key announced the overhaul last September…

…saying the Government would not “shy away” from tackling family violence.

“The challenge of reducing family violence lies with all of us, with the Government, the police, social agencies and with everyone who knows that violence is occurring.”

Police Commissioner:

At the time, the announcement was welcomed by Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who said being able to identify family violence offenders more easily would make it easier for police to provide support.

Women’s Refuge media release:


Women’s Refuge welcomes The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill

The introduction of the much anticipated Family and Whānau violence legislation has been warmly welcomed by family violence organisation Women’s Refuge. The legislation introduced to parliament today places a far greater emphasis upon victim safety – a long overdue and applauded move. This change will see the justice sector required to place victim safety at the heart of much of their decision making, especially in to care of children and bail issues.

Women’s Refuge Chief Executive Dr Ang Jury says “we are very pleased to see the government has taken seriously the concerns and suggestions from those working at the coal face in crafting this comprehensive piece of family violence legislation; the strong emphasis on the safety of victims and their children is a great move”

Under the proposed legislation, processes around the granting and policing of Protection Orders by the Courts have been significantly strengthened. Information including risk factor information will now be made available to Police Districts when an Order is granted and breaches of Protection Orders will now be treated as aggravating factors at sentencing. In addition all bail applications before the Court must include careful consideration of victim safety.

“Incidents of family violence and abuse including breaches of Protection Orders are rarely isolated or ‘one off’ incidents, they are deliberate and frequently repeated. To see this reflected in the way the courts sentence is a significant step towards ensuring a victim’s safety is paramount”

Legislation changes will also include better recording and acknowledgement of family violence, better information sharing provisions between government and family violence agencies, the introduction of a code of practice across the sector, and the inclusion of new classes of offences. While Women’s Refuge has yet to see the details of all of these, they are positive about the proposed changes.

“We are pleased to see focused attention to strangulation and marriage by coercion with the introduction of these new offences. The inclusion of animal abuse in the new definition is also extremely pleasing as we know that threats of harm to pets are a frequent control tactic utilised by perpetrators; to see this explicitly recognised is a great step forward.”

The Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill was introduced to Parliament today to overhaul the Domestic Violence Act, amend five Acts and make consequential changes to over thirty pieces of law.

On promoting and excusing political violence

Kevin posted this comment: “Usually I’m just taking the mickey with these things but in this case there’s serious underling themes of what is violence, is it ever justified and when, etc, so could make a good thread. And to be honest I find the thread a little bit on the scary side.”

Referring to this post be ‘weka’ at The Standard: Punching Nazis, and practicing resistance

I’ve been sitting for a few days trying to figure out what I think about punching Nazis and applauding punching Nazis, as a form of resistance. The act spoke for itself in obvious ways, and yet the glee with which the anti-fascists danced around the internet putting the video to song left me discomforted, as did the inevitable stand-off between liberals and radicals about what’s ok.

In comments Marty Mars:

If you don’t punch them they think they are allowed to do what they want including punching others.

because of all that I say punch a nazi every time

Weka:

I agree with much of that, and I can’t say I have too much of a problem with the original punch.

That some people accept, excuse  and promote physical violence against people with different political views is a concern in the New Zealand context.

McFlock:

I tend to follow the rule of thumb that sometimes, some people need to be punched – but it is never a good thing.

This is why I try to avoid socialising with tories: they might be all amiable and good company, then they tend to say or do something that makes my fists itch.

Nazis are easy to justify punching, like paedophiles. I won’t be overly sad if Rolf Harris gets thumped in prison, for example.

The trouble is that if you don’t have a pretty firm line about where and when and on whom thumping is justifiable, you end up on a slippery slope.

The interesting argument is the dividing line between “someone who disagrees with you politically” and “oh hell, no, thump that guy”. In the case of nazis it’s important to not normalise their existence. So yeah, disrupt their interviews. If that doesn’t work, hit them. And the more political power they gain despite those actions, escalate it again. Because as they’ve shown, as soon as they get a legitimate toehold they’ll expand their campaign of hate.

Yes, that’s me advocating intolerance to the point of violence. The difference is that I’m intolerant to nazi-style organisations, because they’re intolerant of every other group in society. Not one or two groups that are particularly vile, everyone. That’s pretty much what makes them nazis. They glory in violence against inferiors, and see themselves as superior to everyone else (well, overcompensate much, anyway).

Weka:

Spot on McFlock. I love it when someone else does all the thinking and then encapsulates it so I don’t have to. Thanks for that 😎

I would probably separate out paedophiles from Nazis, although that’s a different conversation I think.

But as McFlock pointed out, if you start trying to decide which political views or social behaviour esxcuses violence or not it becomes a slippery slope.

Phil makes an important point:

My concern with this matter is a little more practical: what is the measurement standard for determining if one is or is not a Nazi?

Someone like Richard Spencer, with his truly vile and hateful views of race and ethnicity, would seem to exceed any reasonable metric of judging Nazi-ness and my initial gut reaction is that he deserves to be punched, repeatedly.

But, each of us is going to have a different standard for measuring Nazi-ness. Your own post hints at it by linking John Key and proto-facist. I’ve seen plenty of people on here, and other blogs, suggest everyone from John Key and Helen Clark, to George Bush and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and Tony Blair and Nigel Farage are Nazi’s.

I have serious concerns that some deluded individual is going to think “I think Politician X is a Nazi, therefore it’s acceptable for me to punch, or shoot, or kill them” and that’s not a political opposition/resistance we should be encouraging in any way at all.

And then in comes Sanctuary:

Waaaaaaayyyy to much over-analysis going on here. The neo-fascist got clocked on camera. Good job.

And:

Jesus, what a bunch of namby pambies! You all sound like the giddy heights of resistance for you is pointedly refusing a second biscuit from a conservative vicar.

Now look here. Right wing violence in the form of cruel infliction of poverty or the humiliation of having to grovel for a dime happens all the time. These right wing neo-fascist types are not playing at politics, unlike the completely useless bunch of pearl clutching pacifists here. Those assholes wouldn’t think twice about stomach punching your granny, or slashing her pension to nothing. I would happily scone any one of them on the noggin with a baseball bat. Assholes deserve it.

Weka responded:

What are you on about? There’s 2 people in this thread who I would consider leftish, that have said it’s wrong to punch people, and 3 RWers. Everyone else is saying there’s a context and are talking about that. Hardly a bunch of namby pamby pacifists. I wonder if you are bothering to even read what people write, or the pos, let alone think about it.

Her response is a bit bizarre, and notably doesn’t oppose the violent suggestions.

I guess it’s ok to raise discussions about whether political violence is acceptable or ever justifiable, but I would have liked to see condemnation of it from a blog moderator who warns and bans people for very trivial things.

I find  labeling people left or right or Nazi or fascist in the context of making reasons and excuses for violence, especially in a politically benign New Zealand context, more than a bit disturbing.

Violence on political or religious or ethnic or just about any grounds, especially initiating it, should simply be condemned.

Christmas = violence

Unfortunately for many people the Christmas period means markedly more violence.

Instead of celebrating Christmas time and holidays some families – quite a few of them – get the bash instead.

Violence is one of the biggest blights on New Zealand society.

The Herald is trying to confront this.

family_violence_article_banner

New Zealand has the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the developed world. Over the Christmas and New Year period the number of incidents spikes dramatically. Fewer than 20 per cent are reported to the police – so what we know of family violence in our community over the festive season is barely the tip of the iceberg. Today we have a simple message – every Kiwi has a right to a safe, fear free and happy holiday. We are revisiting our campaign We’re Better Than This to raise awareness, educate, and give an insight into the victims and perpetrators. We want to encourage victims to have the strength to speak out, and abusers the courage to change their behaviour.

They have a case study in partner violence: Athlete’s ex-wife – I kept it hidden

The ex-wife of a former top sportsman has spoken of her abusive marriage in a bid to highlight the fact that family violence can and does happen in all Kiwi homes.

She is one of many people prompted to talked about their experience with family violence by the Herald campaign We’re Better Than This.

“It started with him kicking me and then pulling my hair, spitting on me and pulling me, shoving me.

“He would tell me when I told him it was physical abuse that it wasn’t because he had not used his fists.”

When she was heavily pregnant with her second child, she became upset at her husband when he arrived home late.

In response, he dragged her across their bed by the hair and would not let her go until she apologised for berating him.

As a society we have to be better than this, and this means we need to talk about it more openly.

Family harm and intimate partner violence happens in the poorest of Kiwi homes and the richest.

Among the victims are our most educated people, and our most vulnerable.

They are young and old. They are from all ethnicities.

The term family violence encompasses intimate partner violence, child abuse, elderly abuse and the abuse of disabled people within families. By far the most significant of all family violence is men abusing women.

Another example:

“I got married when I was 21 to a guy I met at church, who I thought was a great guy,” said Sarah, who did not want her surname published.

“When we were dating I noticed … how critical and harsh he was [to others], but … I thought ‘he will never treat me that way’.

“He had this charm and confidence which I was initially attracted to.

But when they got married:

He started calling her derogatory names and became extremely controlling, demanding to know what she spoke to her friends about.

“He didn’t like me going to my doctor by myself and would insist on coming because ‘I couldn’t explain myself well’,” she said.

“He would grab me, shove me against walls, put his head up to my face and scream.”

That took a huge toll on her mentally and physically, but she “kept up appearances” at work and in public so the world thought they were a “happy young couple”.

“All this time I had no idea I was in an abusive relationship. I thought that was for older women who have been badly physically abused.

“The psychological torture of those times [was] horrible.”

We as a society have to be better than this.

READ MORE:
Family violence: ‘Just pick up the phone, we could save your life’
Family violence survivor: ‘Christmas was HELL’

If you’re in danger NOW:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you
• Run outside and head for other people
• Scream for help so your neighbours can hear you
• Take the children with you
• Don’t stop to get anything else
• If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay.

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women’s Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 – 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am-11pm every day – 0508 744 633 2shine.org.nz
• It’s Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men’s violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. whiteribbon.org.nz

‘Coward’s punch’ law

Winston Peters announced last week that a ‘one-punch’ assault should be subject to a separate law.

‘King Hit’ Sentences Far Too Light

Perpetrators of “King hits” should be sentenced to a minimum of eight years if their victims are killed, says New Zealand First.

“We want to send a message. Land one of these cowardly punches, take a life, and you’re behind bars a long time,” New Zealand First Leader and MP for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters said in a speech to the Police Association in Wellington today.

“There have been too many cases of innocent people dying from a ‘King hit’. Good people have been killed. Families and friends are suffering.

“The ‘King hit’ punch will be defined in law as ‘an event  that is unexpected and unprovoked but of such force to the head that it is likely to cause incapacitation, injury or death’.

“New Zealand First will ensure the length of the sentence will send a message that society will not accept this level of violence,” says Mr Peters.

Calling this type of assault a ‘king hit’ is a mistake. It’s a very cowardly sort of attack.

Is a special law for it necessary, beyond trying to appease a populist support base?

Manslaughter can already result in up to a life sentence, although now sometimes shorter sentences are given. Recently an Invercargill sentenced a ‘man’ to 22 months in prison. Would a longer sentence achieve anything?

Singling out one sort of assault could lead to anomalies in charging and sentencing.

Why is one punch worse than two punches? Two punches followed by a few kicks in the head? Driving a vehicle into a crowd?

Are one-punch sentences too light relative to other assaults? Or is singling them out a  knee-jerk reaction, or trying to appeal to the ‘lock-em-up crowd?

The Otago Daily Times looks at this policy in today’s editorial The full force of the law?

Mr Peters’ king-hit policy must be viewed with eyes wide open, however. This is already election season and the promises, baits, bribes and face-savers are coming in thick and fast: everything from more police, more houses and more affordable houses to less immigration and tax cuts. Crime and punishment is a favourite, and it is all too easy to promote policies which prey on fear and highlight retribution in order to make political mileage.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of one-punch laws as a deterrent. Is our current legislation really not up to the task? There is undoubtedly debate around sentencing in some cases, but there are also serious questions over whether a one-size-fits-all hard-line approach is desirable. And, if attitudes towards alcohol and issues with anger are at the root of the problem, is such a policy anything more than an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff?

It is clear something needs to be done about alcohol-fuelled violence within our society. For years this newspaper has carried headlines which clearly show the prevalence of the problem, where nights out have resulted in bar fights and street brawls. Indeed, it sometimes seems this is the point of a night out for some.

Although a “quick fix” may be desirable, surely a holistic approach is more sustainable. Populist policy may tick the punishment box, but it doesn’t address the cocktail of other factors driving these crimes: alcohol availability and price, our culture of excess and permissiveness, our “hard-man” image, our focus on rights over responsibilities, and our latent anger and aggression.

All must surely be part of the mix if we are to make a meaningful difference – and help save lives.

Alcohol abuse and violence, especially when combined, is a very serious problem in New Zealand. It is deep rooted in our society, complex and  and difficult to deal with. Singling out one very narrow and infrequent type of assault may attract some votes but it is a very narrow, lazy, populist approach.

It will take a lot more than increasing sentences on specific occasional crimes to address mindless violence and alcohol abuse. Cowards who get pissed don’t care about the consequences for either themselves or their victims.

The message that Winston is sending will do little if anything to improve a problem. It looks like a cynical message to potential voters, not to thugs.

Raging over Losi Filipo

Losi Filipo was lucky to escape conviction for a brutal assault on four people.

Losi Filipo was unlucky to escape conviction for a brutal assault on four people because the furore that has erupted as a result has put a disproportional degree of publicity on what happened.

Late yesterday Filipo ended his rugby contract with the Wellington Lions, presumably to try and dampen things down.

He was in a hopeless situation anyway as if he had played there would have been a huge media distraction.

His playing future must be in doubt, as it is likely that any sign of violence is likely to be highlighted and amplified.

While he escaped a conviction and sentence from the court his public sentence is probably disproportionately severe. A fine and some community service would have probably been easier on him.

There’s a lot of violent crime in New Zealand and most of it escapes much if any scrutiny, it is normal life in New Zealand.

So Filipo is suffering more than normal, and that is likely to continue for some time, especially if he tries to play high level rugby again.

In a way this may seem disproportionately unfair.

But the violence he inflicted on four people was also very unfair. Many many New Zealanders are unfairly affected by violence. Many have their lives wrecked by violence.

So while Filipo may be effectively suffering greater consequences than the average thug  greater good may be served by his public sentence.

It has raised public awareness of the insidious effects of violence in our society.

What needs to happen now is a much better response from New Zealand Rugby. Many rugby players and lovers will be dismayed that their sport keeps getting tainted by thuggery.

The Rugby Union has to stand up here and do far more to distance the sport from thuggish violence. It has to lead on dealing with it, not flail in response to a string of embarrassments.

Filipo’s rugby career may have been trashed – largely due to his own actions – and his sport has been trashed with it.

But NZRFU could use this to make a real stand against violence, if the so choose.

They and the media and the people of New Zealand can stop raging over violence and do something about reducing it.