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On 5 February 1994, Alan Bristol and his three children, Tiffany (7), Holly (3) and Claudia (18 months), were found dead in Alan Bristol's car parked in the garage of their Wanganui home. It was established that death had been caused by Alan Bristol connecting the exhaust system to the interior of the car.[1] This was the final act of a sustained campaign of violence and intimidation by Alan Bristol against his estranged wife, Christine.

At the time of their deaths, the Bristol children were in their father's custody, pursuant to an interim custody order made three months earlier.

After public outcry about the killings, the Minister of Justice appointed retired Chief Justice Sir Ronald Davison to conduct an inquiry into the way the Family Court had handled the proceedings between Christine Bristol and Alan Bristol and to consider "the need for any change in the law or in Family Court practice".[2] In his report, Sir Ronald Davison recommended an amendment to section 23 of the Guardianship Act to the effect that:

    once a person has been shown to have used violence in a domestic situation either to his/her spouse or to a child or to both, then such person should be presumed (unless exceptional circumstances are shown to exist for deciding to the contrary) to be unsuitable either to have custody or unsupervised access to the child until such time as such [a] person can establish that it is safe for the child to be given into his/her custody or for him/her to have unsupervised access to that child.[3]

Other recommendations called on the court, where proceedings relating to custody and access involved allegations of violence, to satisfy itself whether they are true or not.[4] A third recommendation suggested that where violence by one party has been established, the court should not make "consent" orders until it is "satisfied that such consent was freely and willingly given".[5]

The above recommendations have been the subject of some criticism. Certain government members and legal academics have expressed reservations; one view is that there were not enough factual details set out in the inquiry to justify the form and scope of the recommendations made.[6]

The main aim of this article is to supply these details: to fill in gaps about the violence in the Bristol relationship, the children's exposure to such violence and the circumstances under which Christine Bristol entered into consent orders with her husband. With this material fully available, it is the authors' belief that the recommendations made by Sir Ronald Davison will be seen as entirely justified by the facts of the Bristol case.

A second aim of this article involves the authors' on- going attempt to analyse and redefine paradigms about domestic violence shared by some judges, police, psychologists and members of society at large. At the time of this triple murder, for instance, newspaper accounts of Alan Bristol described him as a "devoted father".[7] Police stated that the children's deaths had not entailed violence.[8] The coroner's report stated that the laying of an indecent assault charge by Christine Bristol against her husband had somehow "triggered" their deaths.[9]

These statements highlighted issues that we encountered in our previous research.[10] First there is the view that one can be a killer - a wife killer or a child killer - and still be a good father.[11] Next is the view that the victim "provokes" further - understandable - violence by seeking protection from the justice system.[12] Finally, it is held that one is less of a murderer if one limits one's homicides to family members.[13]

A conclusion we had come to when working on the Protection From Family Violence report was that, if the justice system utilised a more lenient approach toward domestic violence than toward stranger violence, then the system itself pointed to women and children as appropriate and less consequential victims of homicide - and indeed colluded in the violence against them.

Over the past several years, there have been several highly publicised murders of children in New Zealand: Delcelia Witika, the Poli children, the Ratima children, Craig Manukau, and Tiffany, Holly, and Claudia Bristol. Each of these murders has resulted in a degree of soul-searching about the nature of our society. In each of these cases a conclusion drawn has been that the murders were unpredictable and therefore unpreventable.

In all of these murder cases, the children's mothers had been the victims of domestic violence. In some cases, the children had also been the object of their killer's violence. In the Bristol case there was no evidence that Alan Bristol had ever previously been violent toward his daughters. However, as is evident from Sir Ronald Davison's report, there was no suggestion that Alan Bristol's violence toward his wife was seen as legally relevant in assessing his parenting abilities. Indeed, at the time of their deaths, Alan Bristol had custody of his children.

Immediately after their deaths, Christine Bristol stated in a press release that she hoped that the results of a Ministerial Inquiry might bring some meaning to the manner in which her children died. In telling Christine Bristol's story we share some of her hope - while acknowledging that the price of such knowledge is too high. Yet we know from our previous work of the terrible continuing price when these stories remain untold.


This article is essentially Christine Bristol's story. Where ever possible, we have used her words, recorded during a protracted interview and a follow-up discussion. She has reviewed our draft and commented on it (and some changes were made as a result of this process). In adopting this collaborative approach, we have deliberately tried to "minimise the tendency in all research to transform those researched into objects of scrutiny and manipulation".[14] We have also attempted to be explicit about our role in the research process, rejecting claims of "objectivity" and "detachment" which have come under increasing attack in critiques of both legal scholarship and social science research.[15] As part of being explicit about the research relationship, one of us (the senior author, Ruth Busch) has prepared the following statement about the origins of this article.

This article arises out of a telephone call made to the Waikato Law School early in July 1994. The caller was a woman with a quiet, hesitant voice: "You don't know who I am but I've been wanting to talk to you for a while now". Working on issues of domestic violence, I knew that this sort of initial connection is commonplace. She went on: "You've done a lot for me recently; I just wanted to contact you". "So", my response was almost light-hearted, "tell me, who are you? What's your name?"

"Christine Bristol".

I was immediately alert. "I know exactly who you are. I've wanted to talk to you too, but I didn't want to intrude".

We set up a meeting. I spent the rest of the week feeling that this was the interview I really wanted for our project.[16] At the same time, I dreaded the actual time we would spend together. After all, I have three children and my own fears of losing them. And for Christine there is no longer the possibility of a happy ending.

So I set up a supervision session with a counsellor friend for late in the afternoon, after the interview would be over. In all the work I have done with battered women - even during our research on homicides - I had never felt the need for space to talk about the feelings that would come up for me. But I knew that this interview would be different. I knew intuitively that she would talk about her hopes and dreams for the children. I knew that she would bring her album of photographs - and that too had to be endured.

I was also aware that Christine Bristol was more than just a victim and the subject of a Ministerial Inquiry. This interview needed to work for her too. Part of my job as a researcher was to ensure that she would leave with something more than what she arrived with - more clarity or strength. I had to deal with her as a real person, not as someone important only for her tragedy, nor with fear that her fate could become mine, by osmosis. She had already told me that she had changed her name and tried to start a new life; certain friends and acquaintances had felt the need to distance themselves, to "pariah-ise" her.

She arrived at my office at the set time, a very attractive young woman. She could have been one of our "thirty something" students, eager to learn and please, one for whom over the years I've helped to obtain non- molestation and custody orders. She was shy about feeling over- dressed. Everyone else was in jeans; her unfamiliarity with universities had led her to "dress up" that day, and "make up" also. Later in the day, a law secretary asked me who the attractive woman visitor was.

More than anything, the first sight of her underscored the cliche "There but for the grace of ..."  She had become a household name now only because of the murders of her children.

I was reminded that when our report on domestic violence[17] was first published we were criticised for dwelling on "the worst cases". But a Family Court Counselling Co- ordinator told me at the time that in our homicide case studies nothing had singled out those women - before their deaths. They were not the worst cases; there were fifty other potential "worst cases" in her court files, each of which might still result in tragedy.

At the onset of an interview there were the inevitable politenesses. "Did Christine mind that a man participated in the interview? Would it be too hard to describe instances of battering and sexual abuse?" She was surprised and said "Why not?" She seemed wary of a hidden agenda in the question.

"Did she want a cuppa first? Should we stop for lunch?" Almost irrelevant issues postponed our start. But even this stalling could not go on and in the end her story had to be faced.

In this type of work, you hope that you can survive the knowledge that is shared with you. You are given stories by women who have sought you out for a purpose. Your job is to relate their stories with integrity - with the glimpses of their strength and courage and resilience in the face of previously untold horror. As the child of holocaust survivor parents, it is a role I have been prepared to assume since childhood.


Christine Bristol related that Alan Bristol's violence to her began even before they were married. They lived together for about eighteen months prior to their engagement and from about six months into their relationship he was physically abusive to her. On numerous occasions he punched and kicked her and "threw [her] around". She said that the violence would occur every week, sometimes several times a week, and that she had black eyes and other forms of bruising. As well, she said that he often belittled her.

    He had to dominate every situation. He just had to have the upper hand. And he used the children, you know - to bargain for time, to bargain for property, to bargain for money.

As a result of Alan's violence towards her, Christine broke off her engagement in December of 1985 and obtained an interim non- molestation order. But she soon discovered that she was pregnant with Tiffany and "because I've always wanted to do the right thing" she reconciled with him. When describing the physical abuse, she recalled:

    He was worse to start off with. There were more external injuries, if you know what I mean. Once Tiffany came along he tried to control himself more, to the extent that the injuries couldn't be seen.

    He'd sort of get into a rage and then it would intensify to the stage where physically, he would just go white in the face and he'd be heaving. And his eyes would dilate. You know, it was just so fearful; it makes you back into a corner, just to get away from it. And then he would explode. And that was when the physical and mental abuse would come - and the rapings. And yet he would wake up in the morning and it was as if it had never happened. And once he'd done it, he'd always give me a bunch of flowers or something, as if to say, well I'm not really this bad person. I didn't really mean to do it. I'm sorry.

Christine stated that her husband knew exactly where to hit her so that the bruises would not show and told her that it would be useless to tell anyone.

    He would say: "It's my word against yours, and who's going to believe you. I'm a business man and I'm from this important family. Just who do you think you are?"

When we asked why she put up with the abuse, Christine said:

    He had this sort of force about him that just kept you there, you know. Maybe it was my insecurity.

Christine did separate from Alan several times during their marriage but he kept pursuing her and she returned to the relationship. She described her husband as an extremely jealous and possessive person and said that at times she felt that she was "a caged animal".

    He wouldn't let me out. When the phone rang, he would answer the phone. When the mail would come, he checked the mail to see who I was getting correspondence from. In the finish, about the last month before our marriage broke up, I didn't keep in contact with any of my friends, because it wasn't worth the emotional strain. If I was going to walk out the door to go somewhere, he would say "Who? What? How? When? Where?" And this was every time. Like one particular instance I went to a friend's place for a cup of coffee, you know, after I'd picked Tiffany up from school, just to get the children out of the house for a few hours. And within five minutes of being there Alan rang. "What time are you coming home? When's dinner going to be ready?" Any excuse to draw me back home again. It wasn't worth it.

Alan's intimidatory and violent behaviour was reported to the police "about a dozen times". Sometimes she called the police: on some occasions, her brothers did. Christine felt that the police "weren't really interested", despite seeing, in some instances, bruises and strangle marks.

    One time when I was strangled - Alan was strangling me in Puriri Street - the police said, "Just get your things and leave. Just take the child and take her things, your things and just leave. Just don't provoke the situation any more".

In 1989, during one of the periods of separation, Alan was arrested for being unlawfully in an enclosed yard. "He was knocking at my doors and windows". Another time during that year, there was a barrage of anonymous telephone calls and a mysterious arson attack on her new home.

    There were no other suspects. And of course (the police) knew it was Alan ... The detective who was in charge ... he was on to him. He actually had Alan under surveillance every Friday and Saturday night because it seemed like he was always doing something then.

The fire was definitely arson. Someone had used petrol and newspapers out of the letter box to start it.

    I stayed in that place for about two weeks but the phone calls were getting too much. They would start just as soon as I'd arrive home. I knew Alan was following me around town. It was like everywhere I looked the van was there. Or my friends were saying, "Oh Alan was just in here".

Christine told us that generally Alan was a very good father. But she added:

    There were some times when I felt frightened for the children - like they would push him too far and I could see him getting in a state. But he seemed to be able to control that better with the children than with me.

The pattern of physical abuse, intimidation and belittling continued until 1993 when she resolved to change it. When asked why she decided finally to split up with him, she replied very quietly:

    It was the abuse, and I couldn't stand the pain, the mental torture any more.

    I wanted to stand my ground. I'd had enough. It was just eating away and I felt, as a mother, it was reflecting on my capabilities with the children. I'd lost all my respect and also I felt Alan just didn't have any respect for me. I was taken for granted and I was constantly manoeuvred like a toy. It was like "do this, do that". Oh, I can't explain it. And when I did what he wanted, he would reward me materially. But to me - I said to him, I don't want that. I just want to be loved. I just want to be treated with respect. But at the end of the day, he thought that he was going to win me over materially.


Christine described the night before they separated for the last time on 4 July 1993.

    It started at 7 o'clock at night and we blew right through the night. He was beating my head up against the wall. But it was in the places that can't be seen. I had bruises at the back of my head and chronic headaches. And for some hours we were sitting there in silence and I was too frightened to move. And then he would go to sleep and I didn't know whether to pack my bags and go, or whatever. I was frightened for the children too. Because he still wanted to have this controlling lever that he could separate me from the children every time. You know we both loved our children dearly. But that was his control over me. He would use them to manipulate me.

    The morning we separated he said, "Right, are we staying in this marriage or not?" And I said, "No, I can't handle it any more". He said, "Right, get your bag". And he threw all my clothes around and he ripped off my wedding rings and things and he flushed my contact lenses down the toilet. And I don't know what the wedding rings signified - he had to keep them. He had to - you know - dominate. And that morning the children of course woke with all this going on. And he put a video on and put them in the lounge. And I said, "I'm not going without the children". He said, "Oh yes, you are. Get in the car now". And of course I had this all night, I was emotionally exhausted, physically drained. And I said, "What are you going to do?" And he said, "Well just get in the car. I'm going to drop you off at your father's; you can think about it for a few days". So we went. He locked the children in the house - this was at 7 o'clock in the morning and drove me round to Dad's place, threw my bag on the ground - Dad and my stepmother were standing at the kitchen absolutely astounded with what was going on - and Alan just drove off. And that was it. And I didn't hear anything at all through that day. All I wanted was to be with my children. My youngest child was only 10 months old. And Alan didn't know how to make up milk formula. He didn't know what foods to prepare. Because I was the wife; I took care of the home, the children, everything.

It was mid-term break and they had had house guests whom Alan had thrown out at about 11 o'clock the previous night. "My best friend was staying with us with her son, who's my godson. He's 13 and he was petrified".

    And Brenda[18] didn't know whether to ring the police or what. Instead she got in touch with my father. She was very fearful for herself. She had heard all the goings on. And a lot of it had happened down the passage way. And Tiffany and Holly were just standing there watching. They were shocked, absolutely shocked. The look on their faces ... and Tiffany was crying. Holly didn't really understand. Well, she was beginning to understand. And Brenda obviously realised all this, and shuttled them away. But she didn't really know what to do herself.

Even after describing this scene, Christine minimised the degree to which her children had witnessed spousal violence:

    They were just typical, happy- go-lucky, very loving children, you know. We usually kept our differences behind closed doors. They never usually saw it. If we had something that we really had to fight about, we went to the bedroom or we just went where the children weren't.

Given that we had just completed an article on the effects of spousal violence on children, entitled "Not In Front of the Children", her statement hung chillingly in the air.


Christine said that she applied for protection orders "off and on" for years. Sometimes Alan would convince her not to proceed.

    He'd say, "I'm not really this bad person. What's the point of going ahead with it? I haven't hit you for a while". And I'd be questioning myself. You know, like I knew it happened but I'd give him the benefit of the doubt. He won't do it again. He's learnt. If I don't provoke him, then he won't do it. He'd say, "Why proceed with it? I'm not going to touch you again".

At other times, she obtained a non- violence order, but the non- molestation order application never seemed to be dealt with.

    My lawyer[19] and counsel for the children seemed to reckon that a non- molestation order would interfere with the custody arrangements. And I would say, "I'm getting these phone calls, he's following me around". But they felt that the children were the key issue. My lawyer would sort of smooth the whole thing over, like "We've got to deal with access and custody first". But I needed the protection in place straight away and I was the children's mother and indirectly - you know - it all ties in with the children. But they couldn't see that. And the non- molestation order thing just seemed to be put on the back burner. "It's not as crucial as sorting out the children, you know". Which I agree - but if I'd had that protection right in the beginning, I don't think it would have got so out of hand ...

Christine's lawyer also suggested that they hold off on negotiating a matrimonial property settlement "until the children were sorted out".

    It was only after I saw (the new lawyer) and she said, "You could have done that right from day one". But I thought that you had a process that you had to go through first. I didn't realise you could get the property issues on the go. And it would have helped the children settle with me, you know. Because I was in this strange house and nothing was familiar to them. And Alan had that advantage of the family home where all the surroundings were familiar, their own beds, and toys and whatever. And I had to start from scratch.

    I think it was one of his tactics - to squeeze me so tight that I would go back. If life was just too difficult financially or materially on my own, I'd have to go back.

Christine's perception that her non- molestation order applications "seemed to get lost" is substantiated by court documents. On 11 August 1993, Christine had applied ex parte for non-violence and non-molestation orders. While she was granted a non- violence order that day, the judge directed that the non- molestation application "proceed on notice to Alan Bristol at a date to be fixed after counselling of the parties has been completed". It should be noted that the provisions of the non- violence order offered her no protection from Alan's repeated telephone calls and his stalking of her.

On 13 September 1993, at a conference of counsel convened by the judge, counsel for the children filed a memorandum which urged placing the non- molestation order application in limbo until a resolution of the custody issues was achieved. This proposal was adopted by the judge on 24 September; he ordered that the hearing of the non- molestation order application "be deferred pending hearing of the Guardianship Act proceedings".

A perusal of counsel for the children's memorandum of 20 September 1993 offers insights into the paradigms about domestic violence which all too often have been accepted by our courts. Christine's need for protection from Alan's intimidatory behaviour was deferred indefinitely. Moreover, Alan's abusive conduct was seen as irrelevant to the issue of custody, both in terms of the deleterious effects on the children of witnessing such behaviour and also in terms of his undermining of her parenting abilities through his actions. What was prioritised was the minimisation of "parental hostility".

Counsel for the children's memorandum stated, in part:

    2. I submit that any public hearing would only exacerbate their [the parties'] polarisation and such would be of no assistance in their common dealing with the children. It is obvious that the children are going to be shared above the norm, and an atmosphere embittered by parental hostility will not be in the best interests of the children.

    3. Mr and Mrs Bristol separated previously. They have previously filed papers and allege the same faults this time as they did last time. Without making any attempt to comment on the veracity of those allegations, I can only submit, that without the matter being contested in Court, the parties reconciled and appear to have lived happily together for the intervening years. Two more children have been added in that time to the family.

    4. With respect, I doubt that the veracity of the allegations made will affect the decisions on the day- to- day care of the children. I note that Mrs Bristol makes no allegations against her husband in his role as a parent, in fact the reverse.

The priority in this memorandum appears to be achieving agreement above all else, principally by avoiding anything which might upset Alan (for example, by not making protection orders against him). By using such terms as "polarisation", "parental hostility", and (non-specific) "allegations", counsel's memorandum effectively minimises, trivialises and renders invisible Alan's violence. At the very least, the violence is reduced to the level of bickering in a dysfunctional relationship. The memorandum also appears to attribute equal responsibility to the parties for the difficulties in reaching a negotiated settlement. On the other hand, if an alternative paradigm was adopted which placed priority on safety and which focussed on the controlling nature of Alan's abusive behaviour, his violence would be recognised as the principal difficulty in achieving a safe and freely negotiated agreement on custody and access. Seen from this perspective, effective advocacy on behalf of children requires confronting the violence and ensuring that the victims of violence are afforded protection.


By the end of September 1993 Christine said that something always happened on access changeover times, "and it just seemed to get worse and worse and worse".

    He would do things like park up the road on a rainy day, so I couldn't tell whether they were there or not. And he wouldn't let the children out of the car until I came. And I would be going backwards and forwards up the driveway. And I felt threatened about that, because those were the times he got threatening, but not to the stage where he was physical. Just threatening words. And I thought I don't need that because it's too enclosed. I need to be where it's more public - out. It was like he was trying to control me in my own place.

She then described a scene that occurred during one access changeover time where there was a "tussle" over Tiffany, "like he was pulling her in one direction and I was pulling her in the other".

    And I thought, "I'm not going to put this child through this". Because you could see it on her face. ... And you know, I just felt so bad for her. I wanted her, as a Mum, I really wanted my child. But it wasn't worth putting her through this really explosive situation. You know, you could see it destroying her. It was bad enough the separation, yet the access time just seemed to be more intensified.

    So, of course, I gave in every time, because it was Tiffany I didn't want to suffer at the end of the day. It was Tiffany he seemed to have control over. And he didn't want to lose that control. And he was trying to squeeze me out of her life virtually in the finish. I saw very little of her, right from November onwards, which was the most distressing thing about this whole thing. And yet the law didn't help me.

    Deep down I thought, well why provoke the poor child? She's only seven, and I'm going to screw her up by keeping this to-ing and fro-ing. And it seemed like the more I fought for her the more Alan was keying in on her mind. So I thought, well, give her a chance. Let her breathe ... but the law wasn't helping me. The lawyers weren't helping me.

Christine's relationship with Tiffany had really begun to deteriorate by this point.

    Tiffany and I had some terrible fights. She would go quiet and then she would say, "I hate you, Mum. Dad says that you have another man. Dad says this, Dad says that". And I said, "Tiffany look, do you see another man here? Have you seen me with another man?" Somehow or other Alan convinced her that there was a man out there, that there was another person that was taking her mother away from the family.

On 1 November 1993, consent orders were made in respect of custody. The orders provided for a shared custody regime with Tiffany being in Alan's care (except from 9 am Sunday to 9 am Monday each week). Claudia was to be primarily in Christine's care (except from 9 am Saturday to 9 am Sunday when she was to be with Alan) and Holly was to be with each parent on a week about basis. School holidays, birthdays, and Christmases were to be shared between the parties. At the same time, the protection order applications pending before the court were withdrawn. The orders were to be reviewable on 14 February 1994, ten days after the children's deaths.

Christine noted that Alan suggested this custody arrangement and she recalled why she consented to it. He had told her:

    "If I keep Tiffany with me then that will curb the problem with her". "But," I said, "You've turned her against me". And he said, "Well, why provoke it any more, just let it be. She wants to be with me". And I thought, well, I don't really want to stir her up and screw this poor little seven-year-old up again.

    Anyway, he said, "'Well, you can have Claudia and we'll have Holly go week about. But I will agree to that only if you uplift these protection orders. And I'll give you some money". I was on the bones of my backside and I desperately had to pay off these bills. And I agreed because I wanted to see the children. I needed to see them week about and I was feeling like I was losing my motherhood, you know.

But if Christine hoped that consenting to Alan's proposal would guarantee her at least some contact with her children and a chance to rebuild her relationship with them, that hope was soon shattered.

    We signed the consent order on Friday, the 1st of November I think it was. And on Saturday he had the children and he said, "I'm not happy with this". And of course immediately I felt threatened. I'm not going to get the children back again, you know. And on the Sunday morning we were supposed to have the changeover time, that's right, at 9 o'clock on the Sunday morning, and he came up the driveway and he wanted to come into my house to get one of the children a drink. But I wouldn't let him inside the house.

    You know, I just feel like as soon as Alan's inside the door he sort of thinks he can come and go whenever he likes. He's done this in the past. And I thought, no, I'm having control here. And anyway, one of the children said, "I'm thirsty" and I said, "Oh, just a minute". And they were all playing around on the balcony area there. And I went and got a drink and came back out and he said, "Well, why won't you let me in? Are you hiding something?" You know, he kept pushing, pushing, pushing.

Christine said that she had just obtained a job waitressing and she felt that Alan was threatened by that as he thought that she was going to meet somebody else. "I think he still had it geared up that I was just going to come back because I had done it in the past".

    And he was especially pushing this bit about the job. "You're going to meet somebody. Are you wearing a mini skirt? And are you doing this?" And you know, "You're going to look a real tart" and whatever. And I really felt quite horrible about it.

    He was standing on the balcony and there are two big high fences along the side, so people couldn't really see us. And this is where I felt threatened. Because it wasn't public enough. Anyway, we were on this balcony by the front door and he slammed me up against the wall. And he said, "You're just a big tart". And that's when I got a big bruise on my arm and I got another one on my leg. And he just sort of threw me round in the doorway. I made out it didn't hurt. I didn't want to give him the satisfaction. Because once he knows he's got into your mind or physically dominated you, he seems to just run away with the whole situation. And I thought, no, I'm going to stand my ground.

Christine then picked up Holly and Claudia and Alan said, "Tiffany's coming with me".

    And before I knew it, you know because I had my arms full, he'd driven off with her. So I just went inside with the younger two.

Christine considered laying a charge against Alan for the assault but decided against it.

    I was hoping that Tiffany was going to be returned and I would have time with her but she never was. If I laid a charge, that would get Alan's back up again. And he seemed to be winning every situation and I thought, well, he's definitely going to dominate if I give him ammunition. So I thought, well, I'll hold off this time and maybe he'll come to his senses and give me Tiffany again. And I didn't want him to manipulate the situation to make me out to be the big evil. And that's what he did.

So instead of laying a charge, on 8 November 1993 Christine left Wanganui with the two younger children and went to Whakatane.

    I thought, I can't handle this any more. Nobody's going to listen to me. And I rang the children's counsel, and I explained what was going on and that I needed, you know, this protection. It wasn't good for the children to see this type of thing. And it wasn't good with Tiffany coming and going. One minute thinking she was coming with me and the next minute being pulled away. And probably to hear criticism of me as well, you know.

Christine hoped that her move to Whakatane would be a permanent one. "I was suffocating in Wanganui". She went to the home of Brenda's parents, people who had looked after her after a bad beating years before. But, three days later, on 11 November, Alan applied for an ex parte interim custody order in respect of all three children as well as a warrant to enforce that order.

Though the applications were made ex parte, copies of the documents were served that day on Christine's lawyer in Wanganui who contacted her immediately. With the help of a Whakatane lawyer, Christine prepared an affidavit in reply to Alan's application. It included a medical certificate prepared by a Whakatane doctor describing her bruising.

The affidavit was faxed to the Wanganui Family Court on 12 November but arrived after a judge had granted the ex parte custody order to Alan.

Christine returned Holly and Claudia to Alan the next day.[20] On the advice of a police officer friend, Christine arranged the changeover to occur at the Wanganui Police Station. It was probably a wise precaution: despite the presence of a senior officer Christine felt intimidated by Alan's shouting and abusive behaviour. And, as she noted, that was the last time she had any of the children in her care.

It should be noted that, at the time of the granting of the ex parte order, Christine was not actually in breach of the consent orders made on 1 November. Although she applied for interim custody on 24 November, the children remained in Alan's custody until their deaths. In Christine's view, the making of the interim custody order in Alan's favour substantially altered the dynamics of the family situation in that he was largely able to dictate the terms and conditions under which she had access to or contact with the children.

On 1 December, Christine began to flat with Ian, an old school friend who was also a policeman. She felt that she would be safer there. As she was strapped financially, she could also share house expenses with him. Ian had children of his own and a girlfriend but Alan obviously felt threatened by the new arrangement.

Christine didn't see the children again at all until Holly's birthday on 11 December. "I was desperate to see them".

    And I said to my lawyer, "If Alan can get an ex parte custody order and get the children, why the hell can't I?" And he said, "It's crazy, you know. You're just tussling against one another". But I said, "I want to get my children back". And it seemed like all this time went by, and he said, "I'll get it worked out. I'll do this, I'll do that". But nothing was happening. So then I switched lawyers. And when I signed the paper to get my file released, I had this horrendous bill. And there was a time delay in that. So everything was delay, delay. And I said, "Look, Holly's birthday's coming up. I desperately need to have time with the children, to celebrate her third birthday with them, without Alan".

    So we went to court and I was to have all three children for the afternoon of Holly's birthday and that's when Alan held Tiffany back again and said, "She doesn't want to see you". So I just took the two children. I didn't want a fight. I didn't want to provoke anything. I just desperately wanted those three children. I hadn't seen them since mid November and it was now mid December, a month. So we had a lovely afternoon and I only had them for the afternoon and I took them back at 5 o'clock.

There was no court time available prior to the Christmas recess but, on 10 December, a conference of counsel with the judge was held to attempt to resolve the issue of access over the holiday. At the request of Christine's counsel, counsel for the children also attended.[21] It was decided by counsel at the conference that both parties should urgently be referred to counselling so that an access schedule could be agreed to.

One of the issues in dispute concerned the arrangements for access changeovers. Christine and her counsel repeatedly sought arrangements which would have afforded her some protection. One suggestion was for a neutral access change-over place. Another was for Christine to have someone accompany her if she was to go to the relatively isolated family home to collect the children. A third was for someone other than Christine or Alan to transport the children. Alan strongly resisted each of these suggestions, despite the argument that having a neutral person involved would provide a measure of protection to him by reducing the chances of Christine making "false" allegations against him.[22]

As Tiffany's birthday was on 18 December, Christine wanted to work something out that day.

    We were negotiating in a little lawyer's room at the courthouse. We were actually going to go into court but the judge's time ran out. So we had my lawyer, Alan's lawyer and the children's counsel and we only had so much time, so we had to make a decision. And it felt like Alan's lawyer and the children's counsel were saying, "Right, we've got so much time, take what you can get". And Alan was dominating the whole argument. "You can only have them for the afternoon. You're not having them overnight. And you're only going there when Ian hasn't got his children there, and Ian's not allowed to be there, and you're not going to go anywhere else, and you're not to ...".

    He just controlled the whole thing. And I tried to stand my ground and I said, "What's one night? Just let them stay the night". I tried to get more time. As it turned out, I only had them from midday till about six o'clock, I think it was. In the finish, even my lawyer thought, "Well, you better take what you can get".

Christine remembers Tiffany's birthday as "a great afternoon".

    Tiffany was a little bit strained to start with but then she came back to her old self. And then as time went on she started closing up again. It was like she was switching off and on. I felt so helpless then. I feel that she would have needed serious help to overcome the psychological damage she had suffered. I could see her taking on a lot of Alan's character actually, being able to switch on and off and adapt to certain situations. Like she put up a front in front of her friends as if nothing was wrong and that she didn't care about her parents being separated. And that she was fine. "And look what new toy I've got. Whatever I want I can get".

On 22 December, a further consent order was filed covering access over Christmas and the school holidays. Christine consented to both she and Alan sharing Christmas Day with the children together at the family home.

    I was expecting us to come to an arrangement where one had them in the morning and one in the afternoon but he wouldn't agree to anything. And then I just thought, "Oh, what have I got to lose?" And I said, "Why don't we all share the day together in our family home?" That's the only way I thought I'd get Christmas with the kids. And he said, "Yes". So we did. And we had an absolutely beautiful day.


    I got there about 9 am and I was to go at 5 pm but in the finish he said, "Why don't you stay for dinner?" So I stayed for dinner. And then we got talking about things. And then the reconciliation issue came up. And I was looking at the children all night. We had such a beautiful day together. And I said, "I need a couple of days to think about it, a couple of weeks. Just don't push". But I knew that I couldn't handle Alan any more. I just couldn't live with him again. I just didn't have what it takes to carry on with the marriage. I loved him but he'd broken me completely. I'd just had too much upheaval over too long a period of time.

Christine, Alan and the children also shared Boxing Day together "but a little bit more tension crept in".

    He kept the pressure up, you know. Consider it; look at the children. And I could feel it. I was getting tense with the whole thing. And he was gaining control again.

Alan asked her to stay over again. "What's one more night and the kids like it so much". She agreed and went up to the second bed in Tiffany's room "but five minutes later he came up and sat beside my bed and I knew I wasn't going to get any sleep and I could feel the tension".

The two went downstairs and when Alan went to answer the phone ("It was obviously one of the women that he'd been seeing"), she got her things together. When he hung up, she told him "My answer's, No".

For the next two days, Alan rang Christine repeatedly. On 28 December, she went alone to collect the children. When she arrived Tiffany was at a girlfriend's house and the two younger ones were asleep although Claudia woke up when Christine arrived. She decided to come back later to get the children.

    And as I was walking out he put Claudia down on the floor and grabbed me from behind and dragged me up to the bedroom were he tried to rape me. He had his knee up here against my neck and he had me pinned down on my head. And the verbal abuse was flying. And I was just struggling, trying to get free. I just didn't want him to do it.

    And of course with the struggle, that obviously woke up Holly and she came in and, well, she really didn't understand what was going on. At first she was laughing. She thought we were playing I think. But then she realised because I was crying and he was knocking my head into the side drawer of the bed, the corner of the drawer. And then Holly was hitting Alan.

    I said to him, "Look what you're doing. Don't do this in front of the children". And it didn't register with him straight away. But within, I would say about 30 seconds, which seemed liked an awfully long time with what he was doing, he must have realised what he was doing. Holly was standing there staring at him. I can't really remember what Claudia - the baby - was doing and he loosened his grip, and I just ran out of that house as fast as I could. I didn't even bother looking back.

    And of course I missed out that access time.

Christine said that the first access time in January went well but the second one involved Alan holding a knife to her throat.

    I went out to the house to pick the children up, and it was like nobody was there, you know. And the door was open, so I walked in. And then he just jumped, sort of out from the kitchen into the hallway and just pulled me in and said, "I want to talk to you". He was angry right from the first minute and it just seemed to grow worse and worse and worse.

After the previous assault, Christine had gone to the police and laid a complaint. Alan had been away with the children but, by the time of this access visit, he had been interviewed by the police.

    And he was furious about that and obviously the first changeover time he didn't know that I'd been to the police. And he gibbered on a fair bit and he had this knife. And he actually had me round the throat. But we calmed it down through conversation. And I left with the two younger ones.

    The three children were watching television in the lounge during this scene.

When asked how she was able to "neutralise the situation", Christine said "by making promises".

    He kept saying that we should spend more time as a family together. More time for the sake of the children. And I said, "Yes, we'll talk about it, but not just now".

    He wanted the ideal family. Perfection. He always said to me, "We've got a successful business. We've got a beautiful house. We've got three beautiful children. What more do you want". You know. And I said to him, "It's not what money can buy".

Christine did not report the January incident to the police. They had not proceeded with the complaint concerning the December assault because Alan had denied it "and I had nothing to back up my accusation". After the January incident, she recalled, "I thought now who are they going to believe? It's his word against mine again".

The psychological pressure on Christine from July 1993 onwards took its toll. She became quite sick. "So thin, and all my hair fell out". She lost about two stone "and then I lost more weight after they passed away".


With pain and tears and many silences, Christine began to describe the events of 2 February 1994, the last time she saw her children alive. The room became even more silent and we no longer made any eye contact with each other. Each person seemed to focus fixedly on the floor.

    Well generally Alan was trying to squeeze me out of the access time. And I was supposed to have the children two days and two nights a week. But we didn't have them as fixed days. So he used that to his advantage. And generally one week started flowing into the next week, and I didn't have the children. And I was ringing the lawyer every day. And she was trying to arrange times. Well, it all just mounted up to what happened in February, the indecent assault. It was only after that happened - you know, when I complained about it to the police - that we (my lawyer and I) decided, "Right, that's enough ... no more access without supervision". We were going to make fixed days ... And Alan's mother was going to pick the children up and drop them off.

Before 2 February, Alan had insisted that Christine come to the former matrimonial home to pick up and drop off the children. Because she was afraid ("the house was down a long road and very isolated"), she tried to have someone else accompany her in the car.

    But Alan would ring me up and say, "Don't bring anybody out again, or you're not having the children". He jumped up and down about it so much that my lawyer said, "Look, let's just keep the peace here".

Around this time she got to the point where

    I didn't care in the finish what happened to me. It was worth taking the risk every time, just to see the children. In fact, I got sick of going to the police. But he was getting worse.

When asked what did she mean by "worse", she said:

    He seemed to be taking out more sexual frustrations on me as well. And it was more malicious. He was pinning me down more and just very ... it started getting more sexual ...

    I think he felt he was losing control of me. And in the finish, he could see that I had let Tiffany go. And even though he did have total control over her, it wasn't enough. So he was trying it on Holly, trying to do it with Holly. But obviously he was getting frustrated with her, because of her age. And because I was starting to get stronger within myself. I had a job and I had new friends. And I was starting to expand myself; I think he felt threatened with that. So he was getting frustrated, to the extent that it was like he was getting physical every two weeks - whenever he had an opportunity when nobody else was around. Which seemed to be when I was to go to the house, a very isolated house, to pick the children up.

    I was returning the younger two children to the house. Alan wouldn't let me have Tiffany during that access time. He claimed she didn't want to be with me. I had to start work at 5.30 and I had to drop the children off at 5.00. So I was up at the house right on 5 o'clock. I remember just driving up to the top of the drive. And Alan was shutting the garage door. And Tiffany was inside and her friend was in there as well. I took Claudia's car seat out and Alan took out Holly. As he was taking Holly's car seat out, my driver's window was down. And he put his hand in and grabbed the keys out of the ignition. And he held them in his hand. And I said, "What are you doing?" And he said, "Who's this lawyer friend?" There was a friend that was taking me out and he was a lawyer. But there was no relationship, no involvement. He was just a friend. And anyway, I did't know what Alan had heard.

Christine broke off her story, looked around and said: "This is pretty horrible".

    And then he pushed me up against the wall and then he said, "Who's this lawyer friend?" And I said, "I don't know what you're talking about". And he said, "Stan". And I said, "Oh, you've got it wrong. He's just a friend". And then he lifted up my skirt. And he said, "Has he been here?" And he ripped my underclothes and said, "Has he been here?" And he grabbed my breast and twisted it. And so of course I struggled with him and tried to get my keys back. The whole time I was trying to peel his fingers back and get the keys, and he was just pushing me up against this wall, and kept knocking my head against it. And that's how I whacked my elbow and it came up pretty sore and it was bleeding. And I kneed him. And punched him in the nose. And gouged him in the eyes - I did everything I possibly could. And the hand that he had my keys in - I actually got him round the wrist with both my hands and slammed it into the wall. Which is a roughcast wall, and it made all his knuckles bleed. And that's the blood I had on my shirt, along with what was on my elbow, and my nose was bleeding.

    And I was crying, and Holly was beating Alan. And Tiffany was in the kitchen. It's like a glass house kitchen with tinted windows and Claudia was crawling along the bench. She was half out the window. And Tiffany was just staring out with this glazed look, in disbelief really, I think, but she had a funny grin on her face like I'd never seen before. Her friend Lisa was absolutely horrified. And Alan just kept going and going and going.

    And he said,"Well, why don't you step inside and we'll talk about it?" And I said, "I'm not going in. Just give me my bloody keys". And he said, "Well, say please". And I said, "Please" and he just held his hand out like that. So I grabbed my keys and hopped in the car, wound the windows up and locked the doors. And Tiffany came running out and stood by Alan's side and Holly was crying. I don't know where Claudia was. And all I could hear him saying to Tiffany was, "See what I mean about your mother. See how crazy your Mum is". It was just incredible. She was just standing right next to him. And he said, "Look at her!"

    And Tiffany was watching the whole thing that was going on. She didn't say anything. She just had this peculiar look on her face. But her best friend was standing next to her absolutely horrified. And Tiffany - like emotionally she was torn. And she didn't really know who to go to. But Alan just kept talking, talking, talking. And it seemed to - you know - encourage her more to his direction. And I said to Tiffany, before I went down the driveway, "Tiffany, one day you're going to find out the truth, and I'm always going to be there for you". And that was the last time I saw them all alive.

    I went home. And I didn't really know what to do. My mind was all over the place. And I knew I looked a mess and I didn't want to be seen like that, with the blood and everything on my shirt. Ian, my flat mate, was there with his children and luckily they were down in the kitchen. And I said, "I need to speak to you" and I ran into my room. And he came in and he said, "Oh my God". He said, "You know what to do". And we actually had a blazing argument. And I said, "Look, it's not worth losing a friend over". I said, "I'm sorry, I'm going to go over to the police station now". And he said, "Do you want me to ring them?" And I said, "No, I'm going in there now". So I changed my skirt, my underclothes, and put them all in a bag and went into the police station.

When asked whether she reported the incident to the police to placate Ian, Christine replied:

    No. It was somebody saying to me, "Well, you know what to do". Because I had so many things going on in my head, and I was fretting for the children, and I was really upset that they'd seen what had happened because that was the very, very worst that they'd ever seen. And all three of them witnessed it. Well I know Tiffany and Holly did. And I was very upset about Tiffany's friend too. Yes, the look on their faces and what Alan had said to Tiffany as I was driving away.

The next morning Christine was examined by the police doctor and photographs of the bruises were taken. The police went and spoke to Tiffany's friend who corroborated Christine's story. Her bloody shirt had Alan's blood on it. He was charged with indecent assault.


Christine stated that she had always had a worry that Alan might turn on the children.

    I didn't think he would. I trusted him because I'd never seen him do it. I'd seen him come close but I thought, "No, he won't. He wants to fight for custody. He wants to be seen as equal to me as a parent". Because I'd had more involvement with them.

    And I didn't think he would do this. Especially to himself. You know, he had such high regard for himself. He had a big ego, full of confidence, knew he was successful. He had this striving personality to win, win, win. He never lost. He wanted always to have the upper hand. But then, like I said to Sir Ronald Davison, if he couldn't have the children, then nobody was going to.

Because Alan had repeatedly made the threat about her ("If I can't have you, nobody will"), Christine had become quite fatalistic.

    In fact with the violence increasing with him - towards the latter part of last year and the beginning of this year [1993/1994] - I felt that I was accepting it. That it was going to be me. Something was going to happen to me. And if he had come into my work with a gun or something, I couldn't be bothered fighting it. You know, because of the children, I thought, well, I'll never be rid of him, never - not for years and years and years.

She recalled that when she first saw Alan in the funeral home:

    The first thing I did was look at his face and his hands and feel that he was cold. I was adamant that he was going to sit up and get me still. Every day I went to see them - sometimes several times a day - and I went to him first to make sure he was cold. As sick as it sounds. And his hands were clenched and I knew he was tense ... yes, fighting. This is him. His fighting spirit. And that's the way he was found, fighting to the bitter end. And yet I didn't believe he was dead.

Alan Bristol left no notes explaining his actions.

    They say that the children never knew what happened. It took them three minutes, maximum. The back of the car was made like a big bed. I can't understand that because the children were light sleepers. But they looked so peaceful, so ... but Alan, he obviously realised what he had done and realised the consequences and turned the ignition off. And they reckon it took him fifteen minutes, maximum. But he struggled ... and was found in a position where he'd just turned the ignition off. But it was all pretty much premeditated. Because he'd taken the hose off the pool and used that.

In response to the inevitable question of why she feels that he killed the children and himself, she answers quietly, "To get at me. It's my punishment".

    I think he knew that he was going to be revealed for the person he was. And because of that he was definitely going to lose custody and he couldn't handle that. And he couldn't handle the fact that he lost, I think. It was like a win/lose thing with him. And if he lost he had to play again, double or quits.


There was very little to say once the story of the children's deaths had been told. Christine spoke with anger about Alan's lawyer's description of Alan as a devoted father, made during a press conference.

    I couldn't believe it. I have it on video what he said, that Alan was a devoted father and had a good chance of getting custody of the children. And I thought, for goodness sake, you're losing sight of the fact that he murdered his children. How can he be a devoted father when he's a murderer? He put himself first. His own wants and needs over and above his own flesh and blood. Oh I don't know, I get so bitter at times.

We asked her to think about how the legal system could have worked better for her and her children. She responded by describing how worn down she had become by the constant negotiations about custody and access.

    I got so tired and exhausted with it, I was bordering on giving up. I was about to give up Tiffany. I felt like it was torturing her. And I thought, well, as long as one of us bowed down and left the poor child some sanity, at the end of the day maybe she will come right. She will - sort of further down the track when she's older - understand what's gone on and that I'm still her mother.

And then the words tumbled out:

    I needed protection against Alan. And I wish I'd been told by my solicitor what I could and what I couldn't do, what options were open. I really didn't have a clue. What I could fight for. What rights I had. What supports there were. I just needed advice really. And what course of actions I could take.

    And the attitudes. Like counsel for the children's attitude. I was very disappointed there. And I just thought, well Alan got away with a lot more, being a stronger person than me. He stood his ground. He obviously knew what guidelines he could go to. I didn't have a clue.

    You know, I didn't know just how far you could fight. And just what you could ask for. Like I had no idea about this ex parte thing. And just what was involved with non- molestation orders. And what the difference was between a non- molestation and a non- violence order. I just thought, right, he's not going to touch me again or he'll be prosecuted for it. But then there's all the other complications like the phone calls and the following around and, you know, all the intimidating stuff.

    And when I came back from Whakatane, I basically felt like I'd run off with the children. I had to return them and I was getting this big slap over the hand: "Naughty girl, don't try anything else". Really that's what I felt like.

    I was always on the back foot. I was constantly trying to prove myself. Alan seemed to be on this pillar and he was running sweet, and I had to prove myself.

It was only during the interview that Christine learnt that there is such a thing as an occupation order and that she might have been able to live in the family home with the children. And in response to whether a supervised access centre might have helped her situation, she replied, "Yes, I think they're brilliant because I think it's important for a child to still keep in contact with the other parent".

    As a father he was good. But as a husband to me he wasn't. And I was totally disgusted that he let the children see what he did. And it was changing my point of view about him. I thought, well, what sort of a conscience has he got? What sort of a person is he really? He's obviously putting himself over and above the children. And as time went by ... would have gone by ... I think, you know, those children would have been an absolute mess if I didn't get any more protection.

    My self esteem, everything, it just went through the window. But it was the children that kept me going. I didn't know how much longer I could take it. But, you know, my children were my children and I can't have any more. And I didn't want to lose them forever. I just felt like I was being cheated out of being a mother. I really wanted to stand my ground.

    And killing them was a last desperate dig at me. He knew I couldn't have any more children and he knew that I adored them as much as him. So what would be the way to hurt me but to take what was most precious. But he's cheated them out of life ... out of having their own children, getting married ... just life.


Christine is pleased with the recommendations of the Davison Report. She believes that her children might still be alive if the changes recommended by Sir Ronald Davison had been in place. It is her hope that the recommendations will be implemented for the benefit of other children who might be saved.

On 16 September 1994, the Minister of Justice announced proposed new domestic protection legislation. This included a new protection order covering a wider range of behaviour than covered by the existing non-molestation and non-violence orders; increased penalties for breaching protection orders; and a presumption that "anyone who has been violent will not obtain custody or unsupervised access unless that person can satisfy the court that the child will be safe".[23] There was no mention in the Minister's statement about another important Davison recommendation: that the court should not make "consent" orders in cases of violence until it is satisfied that such consent was freely and willingly given.[24] Like Christine, we support the recommendations made by Sir Ronald Davison. It is our conclusion that the court dealt with the "public" Alan Bristol: the successful, rational, decent businessman. His violent and other abusive, controlling behaviour within the privacy of the home was either hidden or considered irrelevant to his fitness as a custodial parent. It is true that, under the present legislation, the court can consider spousal violence as relevant to the best interests of the child in determining custody and access arrangements, as certain recent judgements have shown.[25] However, our earlier work[26] suggests that what happened in the Bristol case exemplifies a contrasting, predominant paradigm that minimises, trivialises and makes invisible spousal violence. As Sir Ronald Davison said:

    The present laws and practices dealing with domestic cases where violence and abuse are not factors to be considered, seem to me to be quite adequate. In order to deal with cases involving domestic violence however, a completely new social philosophy is needed.[27]


Like Christine, we are encouraged by the recommendations of the Davison report and hope to see them fully implemented. But, in the meantime, the survivors of violence continue to do what they have always done: they carry on, they minimise their own suffering, they employ a myriad of survival tactics. As Christine told us, what had been happening to her seemed like "just everyday life":

    It's like everything that I've come up against with him. It's just been an obstacle and it's like a hurdle race. You know, you jump over it and you pick up the pieces and you move on and although what has happened in February ... is the biggest hurdle, still I had this inner instinct to just pick up the pieces and move on ...

[*] Ruth Busch, BA (Wisconsin), JD (Hons) (Connecticut), Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Waikato; Neville Robertson, BA (Canterbury), M Soc Sc, Dip Psych (Com) (Waikato), Lecturer in Psychology, University of Waikato.

[1] Davison, R Report of Inquiry into Family Court proceedings involving Christine Madeline Bristol and Alan Robert Bristol (1994) 16.

[2] Ibid, 2.

[3] Ibid, 42.

[4] Ibid, 45.

[5] Ibid, 46.

[6] See, eg, Stewart, G "Domestic violence: The Bristol case and the Davison report" (1994)1 Butterworths Family Law Journal 116-121.

[7] New Zealand Herald, February 8, 1993.

[8] New Zealand Herald, February 7, 1993

[9] Davison, supra note 2, at 17.

[10] Busch, R, Robertson, NR & Lapsley, H Protection from Family Violence: A Study of Protection Orders under the Domestic Protection Act (1992). See Chapter 11.

[11] We had also seen this suggestion in discussion of the deaths of the Ratima children. Raymond Ratima, who was convicted of the murder of his 3 children and 4 other relatives, was described as "very caring to his children" (The Dominion, July 9, 1992, 8).

[12] Alan Bristol was described by his lawyer as being under pressure of "the custodial situation and his ongoing relationship with his wife" (New Zealand Herald, 8 February, 1994). Raymond Ratima was described as having "a need to see his son" (The Dominion, July 9, 1992).

[13] The sympathetic comments made about the perpetrators of the Bristol, Ratima and Schlaepfer killings contrast sharply with the almost universal condemnation of the man responsible for another mass killing, David Gray. Gray shot 13 people at Aramoana, none of whom was related to him.

[14] Acker, J, Barry, K & Esseveld, J "Objectivity and truth: Problems in doing feminist research" in Fonow, M & Cook, J (eds) Beyond methodology: Feminist scholarship as lived research (1991) 136.

[15] For a legal perspective on these issues, see Seuffert, N "Lawyering and domestic violence: Feminist integration of experiences, theories and practice" in Stubbs, J (ed) Women, Male Violence and the Law (1994). A similar analysis from a social science perspective can be found in Hoff, LA "Collaborative feminist research and the myth of objectivity" in Yllî, K & Bograd, M (eds) Feminist perspectives on wife abuse (1988).

[16] This project, supported by the University of Waikato Research Committee, aims to evaluate Family Court practices in determining custody and access arrangements in relationships characterised by spousal violence. In particular, we are investigating the impact of these practices and resulting outcomes on victims of spousal violence and their children.

[17] Busch, Robertson & Lapsley, supra note 11.

[18] Pseudonyms have been used for all people mentioned outside the immediate family.

[19] Christine changed lawyers in November 1993. These comments refer to the earlier lawyer.

[20] In fact, under the Care Order made by consent on 1 November, only Claudia was due to be returned that day: Holly was not due to be returned to her father until two days later.

[21] Counsel for the children was actually unsure whether he had jurisdiction to attend under the brief he had been given.

[22] Using the children is a common tactic employed by abusers to maintain power and control over their partners or ex-partners. This is recognised in the "power and control wheel" developed in the women's education programme of the Duluth Abuse Intervention Project (Minnesota Program Development Project, In our best interests: A process for personal and institutional change).

[23] Minister of Justice, "Domestic Protection Legislation" (press statement issued by the Minister's Office, 15 September 1994).

[24] Davison, supra note 2, at 46.

[25] See, eg, V v T, Family Court, North Shore, 18 April 1994 (FP 33/93) per Green DCJ. This and related cases are briefly reviewed in Robertson, NR & Busch, R "Not in front of the children: The literature on spousal violence and its effects on children" (1994) 1 Butterworths Family Law Journal 107-115.

[26] Busch, Robertson and Lapsley, supra note 11.

[27] Davison, supra note 2, at 41.