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Govt says it's working on abuse issues raised by Glenn inquiry

Published: 5:40AM Monday June 16, 2014 Source: ONE News

Justice Minister Judith Collins says changes have already been made to the courts and tougher domestic violence penalties are on the way.

A long-awaited inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence is calling for an overhaul of New Zealand's court system, saying victims are being revictimised.
The first People's Report from the Owen Glenn-funded inquiry documents harrowing details from 500 people who have lived and worked with abuse - victims, offenders and frontline workers.
The report calls for a national strategy to be implemented now, describing domestic violence as a sickness in our society. 

The police say they will continue to review their work in this area.

The Ministry of Social Development which is in charge of Child, Youth and Family and Work and Income, says sometimes it doesn't get it right but will use the People's Report to improve services.

'You never get to be free'

One victim told ONE News: "You never get to be free or live your life or be truly safe."

"You end up with conditions like anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder. So you struggle," says the woman, who did not want to be identified.

Police investigate an average of 87,000 cases of domestic violence a year.

The People's Report says child abuse is also under-reported. It says there were 23,000 substantiated cases last year but the actual number could be five times as many.

"It's a sickness of our society that thrives in secrecy we prefer not to talk about it," says Dame Catherine Tizard, inquiry patron.

Court system 'dysfunctional'

The report also describes the court system as "dysfunctional" and "broken".

"We have personal friends at the moment who are involved in family court proceedings, and it's just so obvious that it is not working," Dame Catherine told ONE News.

The Family Court comes under particular scrutiny in the report which says it is perceived to be "biased" in favour of offenders who would "play the system".

The woman victim told ONE News: "I had about six weeks with the psychologist. And the offender was given one phone call and that's all that he was put through."

The inquiry suggests putting the burden of proof on offenders and scrapping the adversarial system of justice.

Glenn Inquiry chair Bill Wilson says: "I can quite understand how victims of family violence going to court see themselves as having to go through very much the same experiences again."

The inquiry found staff at Child Youth and Family "substandard and judgemental" and while police had made improvements, some officers "lacked empathy" and could be "unfair".

The report says Work and Income offers insensitive, inconsistent treatment, while schools also failed to act.

Mr Wilson says there is a case in the report of a child "so badly beaten up that they couldn't sit down for two weeks and no inquiry was made about why".

The report calls for a national strategy, saying it will now work on putting together a plan of action.