Experts seek inquiry on case of Mrs P
A group of more than 70 domestic violence experts are calling on the prime minister to ensure the courts investigate a miscarriage of justice case that saw an abuse victim wrongly convicted of perjury.
The academics and specialist agencies also want the woman, known as Mrs P, to be compensated, and those who acted inappropriately in the case to undertake training in domestic violence and coercive control.
In an open letter, penned by the country’s leading domestic violence researchers including Auckland University professors Nicola Gavey and Vivenne Elizabeth, the group says the woman’s story shows ‘‘state power and ignorance colliding to harm a vulnerable woman’’.
‘‘The story highlights multiple occasions where the system has failed Mrs P – as a woman who suffered domestic violence, she was further harmed by the very institutions that women are urged to turn to for help,’’ the group’s letter states. ‘‘The treatment of Mrs P within both the Family Court and the District Court is a stinging indictment of the operations of our courts, and some of the judges and lawyers who operate within them.’’
The revelations about how Mrs P was treated in the Family Court were particularly significant, it said, because such information was rarely provided for public scrutiny. Her mistreatment by the courts may seem extreme.
‘‘However, core elements of this case resonate strongly with what advocates tell us about women’s and children’s experiences in the Family Court, and with what some of us know from our own practice and/or research,’’ it states. ‘‘That is, the Family Court is currently unsafe for too many women who have experienced violence and abuse from their male partners, and for children who are subject to violence and abuse from their fathers or father-figures.’’
The letter also cites the recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, that said the court should be the subject of a Royal Commission of Inquiry. The letter notes the Government’s repeated refusal to hold one.
The group calls on Ardern to pursue urgent change within the Family Court to upskill its actors (judges, lawyers, psychologists) in the area of violence against women and children and coercive control, and design and implement a specialist response to family and sexual violence cases.