Chapter 4
Previous work

The Family Violence Death Review Committee Report

4.22In its Fourth Annual Report, the Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) considered the law relating to victims of family violence who kill their abusers. It considers New Zealand is out of step in the way the law provides for such victims:216

Compared with similar international jurisdictions, Aotearoa New Zealand is out of step in how the criminal justice system responds to [intimate partner violence] primary victims when they face homicide charges for killing their abusive partners… Firstly, it can be attributed to the fact that the defence of self-defence has been interpreted in a restrictive manner in Aotearoa New Zealand, making it difficult to apply in cases involving primary victims. Secondly, by abolishing provocation New Zealand now has no partial defences to murder for those primary victims whose circumstances do not fit within the full defence of self-defence. These defendants will now be convicted of murder rather than manslaughter. And thirdly, Aotearoa New Zealand retains a presumption of life imprisonment for murder, which is difficult to overturn even in such cases and, when it is overturned, still results in long sentences of imprisonment. As such the violent circumstances (that offenders who were primary IPV victims were entrapped in and responding to) do not appear to be reflected in local verdicts to the same degree as they are in comparable international jurisdictions.

4.23The FVDRC recommended that the Government consider modifying self-defence so that it is more readily accessible to victims of family violence.217 This means introducing an inevitability test to section 48 and reintroducing a partial defence for such defendants who are responding to violence but not acting in self-defence at the time of the homicide.218
4.24The Government asked the Law Commission to conduct this review by reference to the FVDRC Report.219
216Family Violence Death Review Committee, above n 2, at 102.
217At 103.
218At 103.
219Terms of Reference: Victims of family violence who commit homicide.