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Mooted changes for abuse victims who kill

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/05/2016

POSSIBLE CHANGES TO THE LAW AROUND FAMILY VIOLENCE VICTIMS WHO KILL THEIR ABUSERS

THE ISSUE

* Nearly half of all homicides are related to family violence and most occur within intimate partner relationships

* A small number of family violence homicides - less than five per cent of all homicides - happen when a victim of family violence kills their abuser

* Most victims of family violence who kill are women, who kill their abusive male partners

THE PROBLEM

* Justice Minister Amy Adams asked the Law Commission to look at whether the law can be improved for victims of family violence who kill their abusers

* Report focuses on three areas: the law of self-defence, sentencing, partial defences

THE LAW OF SELF-DEFENCE

* To claim self-defence there must be a perceived threat of imminent attack and no alternative to the use of force

* Self-defence is often claimed by victims of family violence, but it's not usually successful

* Law Commission wants changes to make self-defence more relevant and accessible for victims of family violence who kill their abusers

* Recommends a new provision in the Crimes Act to clarify that self-defence may apply when a defendant is responding to family violence, even when the threat isn't imminent

SENTENCING

* Sentencing judges can take into account a history of family violence, but there might be inconsistencies in approach

* Law Commission wants the Sentencing Act amended to ensure consistent consideration of a history of family violence as a mitigating factor

* Raised concerns about the three strikes sentencing law and its impact

PARTIAL DEFENCES

* NZ repealed its only general partial defence - provocation - in 2009

* Law Commission looked at arguments for and against partial defences, but decided no new partial defences should be introduced to cover family violence victims who kill their abusers

* Said there was a high risk of unintended consequences and mitigating factors are best dealt with at sentencing.

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