NSW Domestic Violence Reforms

Posted on Feb 23, 2021 by Peter Mullen   |   Categories: Criminal & Traffic Law, Family Law

Victims of domestic violence will be granted greater safeguards when they appear in court while the meaning of intimidation will be expanded to include harm or threatened harm to animals under domestic violence law reforms passed in NSW late last year.

NSW Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman said reforms in the Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill 2020 aim to reduce the stress and trauma experienced by domestic violence victims when testifying in court.

“Attending court can be overwhelming for victim-survivors who’ve suffered terrible abuse. Our reforms sought to ease that burden to ensure they are supported during criminal proceedings, particularly while giving evidence,” Mr Speakman said.

The following are some of the key reforms that will amend the Criminal Procedure Act 1986:

  • Complainants in domestic violence criminal proceedings, and Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) hearings arising from the same circumstances, will now have a prima facie right to give evidence in a closed court and remotely via AVL.
  • Defendants who are self-represented will not be allowed to cross-examine domestic violence victims; and
  • There will be a new jury direction for domestic violence criminal proceedings that states that the absence of complaint, or delay in reporting, by a complainant should not necessarily be viewed as evidence suggesting the allegation is false.

The Bill also amends the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 by making the protection of animals a standard condition of all ADVOs.  The current standard conditions, or orders about behaviour, are that the defendant must not do any of the following to the protected person or anyone they have a domestic relationship with: a) assault or threaten them; b) stalk, harass or intimidate them, and c) intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage any property that belongs to or is in their possession.

“Animals are often used as an instrument of coercive control designed to torment domestic violence victims, with perpetrators using animals to manipulate victims during the relationship and after separation as punishment for leaving,” Mr Speakman said.

The meaning of intimidation will be updated to reflect this. It will now be defined to include conduct that causes a reasonable apprehension of “harm to an animal that belongs or belonged to, or is or was in the possession of, the person or another person with whom the person has a domestic relationship.”

If you or someone you know would like advice regarding apprehended violence orders or domestic violence proceedings, please contact Baker Love Lawyers. If you are the victim of domestic violence or fear for your safety contact the police immediately.

Click here to view the Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill 2020.