Amy Adams’ Consultation is a Sham?
FYI, our letter to Hon Amy Adams. For background see (hear) http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/201768136
Dear Hon Ms Adams
I am in the process of preparing a submission on your Department’s discussion paper “Strengthening New Zealand’s legislative response to family violence’. I note that you have now announced commencement of one of the proposed measures in that document, that of providing bail judges with a defendant’s past “family violence’ records. This shows you are pushing ahead with your ideas regardless of the claimed consultation process, so is the consultation a sham wasting the time of those who are responding?
Can you inform me of the details of the intended evaluation of the trial prior to rolling it out more generally?
I would strongly recommend that any evaluation include interviews with defendants whose bail hearings were informed by any “family violence’ history. All previous evaluations of family violence law have ignored those parties, mainly men, who have been on the receiving end of the relevant laws. This has been a foolish and counterproductive policy because it is the offenders who need to develop enough respect for the law to change their behaivoural patterns, and it is the DVA respondents and Police Safety Order “bound persons’ who need to maintain enough respect for the law to contain their anger at how they were treated. In contrast, the degree of satisfaction that applicants, “persons at risk’ and victims might have with the law will have little bearing on the future behaviour of those they targeted (accurately or falsely) through that law.
I would also recommend that any evaluation include involvement by human rights experts from the outset in the evaluation’s design, implementation and interpretation.
Important questions that should be included in any useful evaluation will include:
– Should all domestic police call-outs be provided to bail judges or should the information be limited to the family violence nature of convictions properly made on the tested evidence?
– To what extent does widely practised sexism by police cause certain information to be misleading and a threat to justice? For example, the fact that someone (usually a male) has been issued with a Police Safety Order in no way implies that person was the aggressor or even an aggressor in the incident or ever in their lives. The legislation in section 124B(2)(e) allows Police to take into account any consideration they choose to in deciding whether to issue a Safety Order and to whom. We know from numerous men’s accounts that even when a female partner was the only violent party, the man is still ordered out of the house with a Police Safety Order, presumably on the assumption that the man is stronger so she is the person at risk in case he might at some point retaliate should she continue to provoke and/or assault him. In those many cases, if a bail judge is given the basic fact that this defendant was once issued with a Police Safety Order this is likely seriously to threaten justice. Similarly, we know from numerous accounts by men already that Police almost always use a woman’s allegations over a man’s, so that even if he is the only party with bruises and injuries and she has not a scratch on her Police will record her statement but ignore all or most of what the male stated. Why Police do this is unclear and has never been researched; it may arise out of training that causes them to prioritize women’s rights and safety over men’s or out of simple expediency knowing that it’s much easier to convince a Court to believe a male was violent than a female. The point here is that Police incident notes cannot be trusted and the sexist injustice clearly practised by them should not be allowed to be compounded by influencing later, unrelated justice proceedings.
– To what extent will the injustice inherent in Family Court Protection Orders mislead and threaten justice in bail proceedings? Similar problems arise as described above regarding Police Safety Orders, but in this case they arise out of the lack of due process involved in making Protection Orders. No evidence is required apart from an applicant’s allegations that are given cursory scrutiny by a judge especially if a lawyer has assisted in ensuring the right wording. Respondents are treated as guilty unless they can convince a judge of their innocence and safety, and in the case of without-notice ‘temporary’ orders they don’t even get any opportunity to do so. This represents a major abandonment of one of the most important fundamentals of justice. Further, no violent behaviour is even necessary for a Protection Order to be made because judges are allowed to (and do) issue them on the basis purely of an applicant’s claimed fear. I have read affidavits resulting in Protection Orders that stated things like “He has never behaved violently towards me but sometimes he gets an angry look in his eye and I feel uncomfortable and believe he could be violent.” Many Protection Orders are applied for dishonestly to gain unfair advantage during ‘custody’ and relationship property disputes, and this practice is encouraged by the fact that people, especially females, are almost never prosecuted for perjury in such cases. All in all, the fact that a Protection Order was made previously against a bail defendant actually provides no reliable information about that person’s behaviour or risk. The only information that might be trusted to reliably and justly inform bail decisions will be relevant convictions on the basis of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
These matters must be included if any evaluation of the trial bail programme is to be adequate. Failing to do so may cause any extension of this programme to produce opposite results from those intended. Accused people denied bail suffer great damage to their lives because they have not had the opportunity to put their affairs in order. If that occurs on the basis of past falsehoods and injustice, one day those accused will be released and we can expect their resentment and disrespect for their society to be reflected in their subsequent behaviour. Ironically, it is the most dangerous of those defendants who, if they know they have been unfairly treated, will take revenge on their accusers and/or others without care about further consequences. This is not conjecture, it happens and contributes significantly to the statistics that presumably we want to reduce. Injustice is State violence and when the State models such violence the population will follow.
Representing the Ministry of Men’s Affairs, a community group because successive governments have neglected the voice and welfare of New Zealand men.