Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill 2020 Explained

The Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill 2020 introduces several changes to domestic violence laws which will provide greater safeguards for victims of domestic violence.

Changes to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 will see the meaning of intimidation in section 7(1)(c) expanded to include “(iv) 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.” Also, the object of Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007  (now section 9(3)(f2)) in relation to domestic violence has been extended to recognise the intersection between animal abuse and domestic violence.

The protection of animals will be a standard condition now in all ADVOs. Introducing these amendments, Attorney General Mark Speakman commented: “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.”


Criminal proceedings and Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders

In relation to criminal proceedings and Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) hearings arising from the same circumstances, complainants will have a prima facie entitlement to give evidence in closed courts and remotely via audio-visual link. There is, however, the availability for the complainant to decide not to give evidence from an ‘alternative means’, and for court orders, on the court’s own initiative or on application by a party to the proceedings, that alternative means must not be used.

Further, accused persons who are not represented by a legal practitioner (ie. self-represented) will not be able to cross-examine complainants. Rather, it will need to be conducted through the use of court technology or by a ‘person appointed by the court’.

Other changes include the ability for parts of the domestic violence proceedings to be heard in a closed court, along with a  new jury direction for domestic violence criminal proceedings which will state that the absence of the complainant, or delay in reporting, by a domestic violence complainant should not necessarily be viewed as evidence suggesting the allegation is false.


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Key Takeaways

Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders

In addition to increased protections for domestic violence victims, the Bill also proposes protections for persons in apprehended domestic violence order (“ADVO”) proceedings.

Clauses 12 and 13 of Schedule 1 of the Bill proposes an amendment to section 39 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW), 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.

Further, Clause 17 and 18 of Schedule 1 of the Bill, proposes the introduction of additional grounds for the court to grant leave to vary or revoke an indefinite ADVO made pursuant to s79B(4) of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW). 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.

These significant reforms are aimed at addressing the stress and trauma of testifying in court, with the objects of these reforms “to ease that burden to ensure [complainants] are supported during criminal proceedings, particularly while giving evidence.”

If you are a defendant in this type of proceeding, it is in your interests to have a lawyer who is aware of the applicable law and how it might affect your case as an accused. If you or someone you know needs advice or representation for an alleged criminal offence, contact the team at Hamilton Janke Lawyer 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 4038 1666.

Written By
James Janke
James Janke

James Janke is founding partner at Hamilton Janke Lawyers, and has more then decade of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. Admitted to both the Supreme Court of New South Wales and High Court of Australia