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Family violence and the pro-arrest policy : a literature review Prepared for the Ministry of Justice by Sue Carswell

By: Carswell, Sue.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: Wellington Ministry of Justice 2006Description: 90 p. ; computer file : PDF format (226Kb).ISBN: 0478290268.Subject(s): CULTURAL ISSUES | DOMESTIC VIOLENCE | INTERVENTION | INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE | LITERATURE REVIEWS | JUSTICE | OFFENDERS | POLICY | SOCIOECONOMIC FACTORS | SURVIVORS | VICTIMS | NEW ZEALANDOnline resources: Click here to access online Summary: This literature review, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, outlines the historical development of the pro-arrest policy in New Zealand and the current New Zealand Police Family Violence Policy. It also examines two of the main debates surrounding the police pro-arrest policy with regard to domestic violence incidents. The first concern is that a pro-arrest policy possibly increases violence in some groups in society. Two US-based studies (the Minneapolis study and the Spousal Abuse Replication Project) are examined in the review, along with critiques of the research. Analysis of the studies indicates that arrests for family violence misdemeanours (less serious crimes) were associated with a modest reduction in repeat offending. However, when the results were analysed with respect to perpetrator's characteristics, including age, ethnicity, employment status and marital status, it was found that some groups of offenders reoffended more than others. Some researchers believe that this is because perpetrators who have less to lose, a lower 'stake in conformity', are not so deterred by arrest. There are many critiques of the two US studies. In particular, criticisms centre on the fact that the studies only investigate a single intervention as a response to family violence and that they do not take into consideration the wider context of criminal justice responses. The second concern surrounding the pro-arrest policy is that it takes away the victim's choice to arrest their offender, further disempowering them. There is much debate over whether victims are capable to make the decision of whether or not to arrest the perpetrator. A number of local and international studies have found a range of victims' opinions about arrest. While around half to three-quarters of the female victims interviewed across the various studies supported arrest, there were many victims who wanted arrest but not prosecution, or who wanted police intervention to control the perpetrator but to not arrest them, often due to the fear of retaliation. The author highlights that while there are concerns that the pro-arrest policy removes victim's choices, victims' views are often still considered, as police can, and continue to, exercise discretion when they attend a family violence situation. How police determine what is appropriate discretion, and what this means for a consistent approach, however, is not discussed in detail, although the report points to the role of domestic violence advocates assisting police by working with victims.
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This literature review, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, outlines the historical development of the pro-arrest policy in New Zealand and the current New Zealand Police Family Violence Policy. It also examines two of the main debates surrounding the police pro-arrest policy with regard to domestic violence incidents. The first concern is that a pro-arrest policy possibly increases violence in some groups in society. Two US-based studies (the Minneapolis study and the Spousal Abuse Replication Project) are examined in the review, along with critiques of the research. Analysis of the studies indicates that arrests for family violence misdemeanours (less serious crimes) were associated with a modest reduction in repeat offending. However, when the results were analysed with respect to perpetrator's characteristics, including age, ethnicity, employment status and marital status, it was found that some groups of offenders reoffended more than others. Some researchers believe that this is because perpetrators who have less to lose, a lower 'stake in conformity', are not so deterred by arrest. There are many critiques of the two US studies. In particular, criticisms centre on the fact that the studies only investigate a single intervention as a response to family violence and that they do not take into consideration the wider context of criminal justice responses. The second concern surrounding the pro-arrest policy is that it takes away the victim's choice to arrest their offender, further disempowering them. There is much debate over whether victims are capable to make the decision of whether or not to arrest the perpetrator. A number of local and international studies have found a range of victims' opinions about arrest. While around half to three-quarters of the female victims interviewed across the various studies supported arrest, there were many victims who wanted arrest but not prosecution, or who wanted police intervention to control the perpetrator but to not arrest them, often due to the fear of retaliation. The author highlights that while there are concerns that the pro-arrest policy removes victim's choices, victims' views are often still considered, as police can, and continue to, exercise discretion when they attend a family violence situation. How police determine what is appropriate discretion, and what this means for a consistent approach, however, is not discussed in detail, although the report points to the role of domestic violence advocates assisting police by working with victims.

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