What is a Police Safety Order (PSO)
A PSO is an order issued under section 28 of the Family Violence Act 2018. PSOs are issued against a person (referred to as a bound person) who the Police believe has inflicted, or is inflicting, family violence against someone they have (or previously had) a family relationship with — or where there is a risk they will inflict further family violence. Family violence includes physical, sexual and psychological abuse, and includes a pattern of behaviour that is made up of a number of acts.
The Police can use a PSO as a way to enforce a period of safety when they attend a family harm incident and are concerned that someone may get hurt, but do not consider that it is appropriate or necessary to arrest anyone at that stage — for example, where there is insufficient evidence of an offence, or where alternative options to formal criminal charges are being explored first. The PSO requires the person who is considered to be at risk of offering violence (referred to as the bound person) to stay away from other people in the household at risk of being victims of further family violence for a set period of time (up to 10 days). An order may be issued without the consent of the person at risk.
PSO and rangatahi aged 16 or 17
Police can issue a PSO in relation to a 16 or 17 year old where the order is justified by special circumstances. This may mean that a PSO is issued for a rangatahi that a social worker is already working with or may be required to become involved with.
Before issuing a PSO, the Police have to consider:
- if the person has inflicted or is inflicting family violence on someone they have a family relationship with
- the likelihood of this violence continuing
- the welfare of any tamariki and rangatahi in the home whether they live there ordinarily or periodically
- the hardship that may be caused if the PSO is issued, along with any other issue that may be relevant.
The Family Violence Act refers to a ‘child’, which is defined as ‘a person who is under the age of 18 years’. The Oranga Tamariki Act distinguishes between child (tamariki) and young person (rangatahi) so it is important to be aware of this difference in language.
Duration of PSO
A PSO comes into force immediately once it has been served on the bound person and can stay in place for the period specified in the order, which must not exceed 10 days. The Police guidance states that if the bound person is 16 or 17 years old then this timeframe is the least restrictive, which in most cases is likely to be less than 10 days.
The Police have their own guidelines to help them decide whether to issue a PSO and how long a PSO should be in force.
When the Police are considering issuing a PSO on a rangatahi
The Family Violence Act 2018 allows the Police to issue a PSO on rangatahi aged 16 and 17 years of age. The Police have the ability to detain a rangatahi for up to 2 hours to enable them to obtain authorisation to issue the order and, once authorisation has been received, to then issue and serve the order.
Police guidance reinforces that they should consult with the family/whānau at the start to determine their views and options including safe placement of te rangtahi if a PSO was to proceed.
Special circumstances that the Police guidance requires them to consider include the following points:
- A PSO issued on a rangatahi is considered a last resort.
- The risk of te rangatahi physically assaulting the other person has been assessed as high.
- The Police have actively consulted with family/whānau about what would be in the best interest of te rangatahi, and have considered all their views.
- The Police are supporting the family/whānau to identify an alternative place for te rangatahi to stay during the ‘cool down’ period.
Responding to a Police request for information
When a PSO is being considered the Police will contact the national call centre for information about te rangatahi. Section 20 of the Family Violence Act 2018 authorises the Police to request information from Oranga Tamariki about victims or perpetrators of family violence for the following purposes:
- to make, or contribute to, a family violence risk or need assessment
- to make, or contribute to the making or carrying out of, a decision or plan that is related to, or that arises from or responds to, family violence
- to help ensure that a victim is protected from family violence.
This is an important opportunity to have a robust discussion with the Police that focuses on the wellbeing of rangatahi and how to manage this situation in a way that addresses the safety needs of everyone, including te rangatahi. We should talk to the Police about:
- key facts such as the name and age of te rangatahi — a PSO can’t be issued if te rangatahi is not 16 or 17 years old but we can still share information that relates to the impact of family violence and prevention of harm
- whether we are currently involved with te rangatahi or their family/whānau
- whether there are any alerts for health, disability, mental health, self-harm or suicidal ideation known about te rangatahi
- the contact details of a safe family/whānau member where they can stay
- any other relevant information to help the Police make the best decision for te rangatahi — for example, if reviewing the history indicates a pattern where te rangatahi was themselves a victim of violence, their trauma background and how it might relate to their behaviour, we can advocate time out from their family/whānau but highlight how a PSO might seem overly punitive considering their history and the level of harm they have experienced.
Ultimately we can provide advice and share our views about what is in the best interests of rangatahi but the making of a PSO is a Police decision.
Assessing the situation for Oranga Tamariki follow up
The PSO is used as a time out and to try to divert te rangatahi from any further violence. If te rangatahi was detained for up to 2 hours to enable a PSO to be issued and served (section 32), and if they try to leave or refuse to stay at the place they were detained, then they can be arrested and brought before the Youth Court. If they breach the conditions of the PSO, this is not a criminal offence and will be dealt with in the District Court.
Whether a PSO is issued or not, assess the information to determine what type of follow-up by Oranga Tamariki is needed, if any.
- If te rangatahi has an allocated social worker, ensure they receive the details of this incident so they can follow up directly with them and their family/whānau or caregiver.
- If te rangatahi is not known to us or there isn’t a current open case consider if the information meets the threshold for a report of concern.
- If the Police are unable to locate a safe environment for te rangatahi to stay then Oranga Tamariki may have a role in assisting which could include short-term emergency care and placement options.
- If the Police request assistance from Oranga Tamariki because an alternative care arrangment cannot be found for rangatahi then our discussions with Police should be focused on:
- ensuring we fully understand the conditions of the PSO (and obtain a copy) to ensure care arrangements are not at odds with these conditions
- exploring all known informal and whānau care options before placing rangatahi in Oranga Tamariki care
- ensuring that an appropriate custody status is in place or can be obtained, such as a temporary care agreement, to enable Oranga Tamariki to place te rangatahi.
If te rangatahi has current or historical youth justice involvement including bail conditions or Youth Court orders, ensure that we discuss the implictions of these with Police. If te rangatahi has a transition worker (as part of our transition obligations around maintaining contact) we need to let te rangatahi know that we need to advise their transition worker who will be a key source of support duing the period the PSO remains in effect.