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Evidence Bill hits spouse-beaters

By Simon Collins NZ Herald

Men or women who beat their partners will find it much harder to escape prosecution under a proposed law that would accept victims’ statements to police as evidence, even if they later changed their minds.

Chief District Court Judge Russell Johnson told a conference in Auckland yesterday that the Evidence Bill, expected to be passed next year, would reinforce court reforms aimed at resolving domestic violence cases quickly rather than trapping victims in a “deadly dance” of legal delays.

If a woman is forced to give evidence, and tells the court a different story from what she told police originally, the bill would also allow the judge to accept her original statement to police as contrary evidence.

Judge Johnson said the courts had struggled to cope with domestic violence cases “ever since the police began to intervene in family disputes, which dates back now to about 1992”.

“You don’t have to be in the game long to know that unless a family violence case is heard within about six weeks, you haven’t got a case, because for one reason or another you haven’t got evidence.

Judge Johnson said a new “fast-track” process was now being followed in special family violence courts in Waitakere and Manukau.

The Manukau experiment had led to more guilty pleas and fewer “no-shows” in court.

“Far more often than ever before, the victims are turning up also, [enabling] a consultative process to go on.”