NSW Bill to Improve Processes for Domestic Violence Victims
On 22 October 2020, New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman introduced the Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill 2020 (NSW) (“the Bill”) to the Legislative Assembly.
The amendments under this Bill aim to improve processes within the legal system in relation to domestic violence, as these crimes are often complex due to the intimate relationships between perpetrators and victims.
Amendments under the Bill
The Bill seeks to introduce additional protections under the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) (“the Criminal Procedure Act”) for victims giving evidence in criminal proceedings which involve domestic violence offences. Domestic violence offences are offences that involve a person who commits an act of personal violence against another, in which a domestic relationship exists between these two persons. These offences include offences which are perpetrated with the intent of coercing, controlling, intimidating, or causing fear in the victim.
Clause 3 of Schedule 2 of the Bill contains proposed amendments to provide domestic abuse complainants with more options in giving their evidence. This clause of the Bill seeks to allow victims to give evidence, through the following methods:
- In a closed court, including when evidence in chief recordings, or any other recordings are played, which form part of their evidence
- Remotely via audiovisual link or otherwise
- Or through other alternative arrangements, including the use of screen or planned seating arrangements
These amendments seek to further support domestic violence victims in order to assist justice system responses in regards to these offences. These increased protections also aim to increase victim attendance rates and finalisation of these matters in court.
Clause 11 of Schedule 2 of the Bill contains amendments in regards to jury directions and warnings. This clause amends the Criminal Procedure Act by introducing a new jury warning where a complainant fails or is delayed in making a complaint about the alleged wrongdoing. The direction will require the court to:
- Warn the jury that absence of complaint, or delay, does not indicate that the allegation is false
- Inform the jury that there are reasons why a victim may hesitate or refrain in making a complaint
- Not warn the jury that delays in making complaints is relevant to a victim’s credibility (unless there is evidence to justify such a warning)
In addition to increased protections for domestic violence victims, the Bill also proposes protections for persons in apprehended domestic violence order (“ADVO”) proceedings. Clause 12 of Schedule 1 of the Bill proposes an amendment to section 39 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW), in order to ensure that ADVOs will continue to be in force for two additional years longer than a sentence of imprisonment, given for a conviction or guilty plea for a serious offence. This extended period will apply for offenders over 18 at the time of the crime. Clause 17 of Schedule 1 of the Bill, proposes the introduction of an additional ground for the court to grant leave to vary or revoke an indefinitely ADVO. If these changes pass, courts will be able to make changes to these ADVOs if it is in the interests of justice to do so.
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Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill 2020 (NSW) and supplementary information available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service