By Gianna Huesch
The NSW Attorney-General has unveiled a major overhaul of NSW’s domestic violence legal protections.
After reviewing the current domestic violence legislation, the Department of Justice has released a number of recommendations to amend current legislation to provide further protection for victims.
In the recommendation, there has been significant expansion of the reasons why someone can take out an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order beyond the 50 types of criminal offence that could already be a cause for making an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order. Future changes to the Crimes (Personal and Domestic Violence) Act would mean that, all state and Commonwealth criminal offences where a perpetrator intends to intimidate or coerce a victim will become reasons for taking out a restraining order. Two important new offences not covered under existing laws are harassment via mobile phone and attacks against a victim’s pet.
One of the biggest changes is that victims will find that potentially ADVOs are more easily able to be approved by a magistrate as the scope of offences is wider. Also, victims would no longer need to prove to the court that they fear a perpetrator nor appear before the Magistrate when an application is being finalised, helping avoid further traumatic meetings with a perpetrator.
Since last year, videotaped statements have been able to be included as an alternative to court appearances when applications are made. Defendants who represent themselves in court will also no longer be able to cross-examine children appearing as witnesses.
The NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton reiterated the importance of the changes, because victims can often be “reluctant to tell police they’re afraid of their partner due to concerns about reprisals”, Ms Upton said.
The government has said it will adopt all 17 of the Department of Justice’s recommendations following it’s review of the state’s domestic violence laws.
Other changes include: extending the ability to seek restraining orders to the new partners of victims of domestic violence, more clearly presenting information about consequences of breaches to offenders, automatic notification of police when applications are made to change the terms of an ADVO, and you can no longer apply to revoke a restraining orders after it has expired.