26 September 2023

New law to step on coercive control

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The people of NSW have been invited by the Department of Communities and Justice to help shape proposed protections for the victim-survivors of domestic and family violence.

The Department announced that the public comments received would be used to produce a Bill to be introduced into the Parliament.

Naming the proposed draft Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022, Attorney General Mark Speakman said coercive control was a form of domestic abuse that involved patterns of behaviour which had the cumulative effect of denying victim-survivors their autonomy and independence.

“This abuse can involve physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse,” Mr Speakman said.

“Coercive control is complex, is insidious and causes untold harm for its victims,” he said.

“Creating a stand-alone offence will strengthen our criminal justice system’s responses to abuse, but consultation is critical to ensure these reforms only capture very serious incidences of abuse, avoid overreach and do not unintentionally endanger those in our community we are seeking to help.”

Mr Speakman said the new law, open for comment until 31 August, would create an offence to carry out repeated abusive behaviours to a current or former intimate partner, and would carry a sentence of up to seven years in jail.

Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence, Natalie Ward said the Exposure Draft Bill also introduced a definition of ‘domestic abuse’ for the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007.

“These are landmark reforms that recognise that domestic abuse isn’t just about physical violence, it can and very often does include physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse to hurt and control someone,” Mrs Ward said.

“These reforms are crucial to ensuring that we recognise in law a pattern of behaviour which is identified as a precursor to domestic violence deaths.”

She said coercive control was a significant ‘red flag’ for intimate partner homicide.

“[The NSW] Domestic Violence Death Review Team noted that in 111 of the 112 (99 per cent) intimate partner domestic violence homicides that occurred in NSW between 10 March 2008 and 30 June 2016 that it reviewed, the relationship was characterised by the abuser’s use of coercive and controlling behaviours toward the victim,” Mrs Ward said.

The 10-page draft Bill can be accessed at this PS News link and information on how to have a say at this link.

Help and support for victim-survivors of domestic and family violence is available 24hrs from 1800Repect (1800 737 732).

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