Contents

Chapter 1
Setting the scene

Introduction

1.1Family violence has long been recognised as a significant social problem in New Zealand. The Ministry of Justice’s recent discussion paper, Strengthening New Zealand’s legislative response to family violence,1 records that this country has the highest reported rate of family violence in the developed world.
1.2Nearly half of all homicides in New Zealand are related to family violence.2 The majority of family violence homicides are the result of intimate partner violence (IPV).
1.3The Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) was established to review and report on family violence deaths in New Zealand. Its review of IPV deaths between 2009 and 2012 identified that most homicides were committed by a male “predominant aggressor” who, in the history of the relationship, had a pattern of using violence to exercise coercive control over the “primary victim” in the relationship.3 In most IPV deaths, the deceased was the female primary victim in the violent relationship.4
1.4The FVDRC also identified a small number of cases in which a female primary victim of family violence killed her male predominant aggressor.5 In its Fourth Annual Report, the FVDRC concluded that primary victims who kill predominant aggressors are not well served by the legal defences to homicide in New Zealand, the result being that primary victims can end up serving long prison sentences for murder rather than having their victimisation recognised in the criminal justice response to their crimes.6

1.5The Law Commission has been asked to consider whether the law in respect of victims of family violence who commit homicide can be improved.

1Ministry of Justice Strengthening New Zealand’s legislative response to family violence: A public discussion document (August 2015).
2Family Violence Death Review Committee Fourth Annual Report: January 2013 to December 2013 (June 2014) at 16.
3At 14–15.
4While gender is not determinative, the FVDRC’s data indicates that, overwhelmingly, the predominant aggressor is male and the primary victim is female. The FVDRC also identified one female primary victim who was killed by a female predominant aggressor in a same-sex relationship and one male primary victim who was killed by a female predominant aggressor. Family Violence Death Review Committee, above n 2, at 39–41.
5Nine cases and one suspected case.
6Family Violence Death Review Committee, above n 2, at 19.