Issuing of Police Safety Orders

Last month we ran a story on the new Police Safety Orders that came into effect on 1 July. These provide the police with additional powers to intervene in family violence call-outs. By the end of the first two weeks, around 74 safety orders have been issued nationally, with eight of them issued in Canterbury in the first week.

Police can now assess the level of risk and issue Police Safety Orders which require respondents to surrender any firearms or other weapons in their possession and to immediately leave any residence occupied by an at risk person, for up to five days. These orders can be issued with or without the consent of the at risk person.

On 2 July the first Christchurch order was issued after an argument between a couple who had both been drinking. The man was required to leave the property and his female partner was put in contact with Women’s Refuge. Police were concerned about the woman’s safety, as this couple is known to Police from previous alcohol related family violence incidents.

On 8 July the first breach of a safety order occurred in Canterbury, when a Timaru man returned to the property from which he had been removed and was then arrested by Police. In cases of safety order breaches the Courts can direct Police to issue another safety order or a temporary protection order.

This new response to dealing with family violence is not without its detractors. The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties has expressed concern that while Police may be acting with the best of intentions, the legislation is open to abuse and there is potential for people to be needlessly criminalized. There is always the tension in this area between natural justice and ensuring family safety. It is worth noting that behind every incident of family violence is a potential homicide.

One of the key issues to the success of the PSOs will be the quality of the safety planning that occurs during the period of the order. Removing someone without ensuring work is done during that period to promote safety will see the efficacy of the orders undermined in my view.

Published on Friday, July 30th, 2010, under Announcements, Family violence

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