Learning from Tragedy: Homicide within Families in New Zealand 2002-2006

This report provides the first complete picture of homicide within families in New Zealand. It found that there were 141 homicides perpetrated by a member of the victim's family, intimate partner or ex-partner in New Zealand between 2002 and 2006 and that:

  • Of the 141 deaths, 77 were couple-related homicides, 38 were child homicides and 26 were other family member homicides.
  • On average there were 28 deaths from homicide within families per year over the five year period (fewer than eight of the victims were children each year).
  • More of the victims were female (88) than male (53), however the perpetrators were overwhelmingly male, with 121 perpetrators male and only 28 female.
  • There was a strong association between neighbourhood deprivation and homicides within families with higher numbers of homicides occurring in deprived neighbourhoods.
  • There were 58 Māori, 51 New Zealand European, 17 Pacific peoples and 15 Asian victims.
  • Fifty-two of the perpetrators or suspected perpetrators were Māori, 62 New Zealand European, 18 Pacific peoples, 12 Asian and 5 of unknown ethnicity.

Analysis of trends over time suggests that the number of homicides within families has remained relatively stable between 2002 and 2006. The report also identified that:

  • A woman is in greatest danger of being killed when she threatens or proceeds with a separation.
  • Most children who are killed are killed before they turn five years of age, and nearly half are killed in their first year of life.

Each of the deaths included in this study was a tragedy for the family and community in which it happened. Identifying all the within-family homicides in the five-year period and examining the common factors and the differences between them offers the opportunity to learn from these tragedies about how to protect future potential victims.

This report identifies four key areas with potential for action to reduce within-family homicides:

  • Time of separation. This is a high-risk period when women, their children and their new partners can be at risk of lethal violence.
  • Shaken or assaulted babies. The first year of life is the time of highest risk of child death: more than one-third of the child victims had died within their first year.
  • Physical punishment. In a significant number of the child homicide cases the investigation and/or court processes reported that the assault was intended to punish specific behaviours of the child.
  • Alcohol or drugs. Drug and alcohol use was common as both a factor in perpetrators' backgrounds and as a factor at the time of the event.

The Family Violence Death Review Committee established by the Ministry of Health is developing a new family violence death review process which will collect more detailed information about how to take action to prevent these risks. The committee will also identify new clusters of deaths where interventions have the potential to save lives.



Learning from Tragedy: Homicide within Families in New Zealand 2002-2006

Apr 2010

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