Considering Victim Safety When Sentencing Intimate Partner Offenders

Julia Tolmie3
 3University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

This paper considers the importance of victim safety when sentencing for intimate partner violence offences. It analyses the current legal position in New Zealand, which is illustrative of a very traditional approach to this issue and is similar to the approach taken in a number of Australian jurisdictions. The paper first points out that victim safety is not an express or mandatory sentencing consideration in cases involving IPV in New Zealand. Furthermore, the manner in which the principles of sentencing and the decision making structure for sentencing have been framed make it difficult to consider victim safety in sentencing. The paper goes on to suggest that even if victim safety was a mandatory sentencing consideration, the process of factual proof at sentencing, combined with the nature of IPV, means that in most cases sentencing judges will not be equipped to make informed safety decisions. The irony is that the same barriers do not exist when decisions are made about bail – despite the fact that bail decisions are made at a time when the offender has not yet been proven to the criminal standard of proof to have predated against the victim.


Professor Julia Tolmie teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Law and Policy and Women and the Law at The University of Auckland. She served as chair of the New Zealand Family Violence Death Review Committee from December 2011-2016, and as a member of the New Zealand Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Family Violence in 2013.


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