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Family violence laws strengthened

Elise Archer, Attorney-General

A new crime of persistent family violence will soon be included in the Criminal Code with the Family Violence Reforms Bill 2018 passing its second reading in the Legislative Council today.

This delivers on a key election commitment of the Hodgman Liberal Government and is a nation-leading reform.

Family violence can often occur over a lengthy period of time, with victims spending months or even years under the control of a violent or abusive partner.

In such circumstances, victims can find it difficult to recall specific details of individual offences which makes it hard for prosecuting authorities to prove individual offences.

The new offence will allow Courts to take into account the full extent of an abusive relationship.

In order to prove a charge of persistent family violence, the Crown must show that the accused committed an unlawful family violence act in relation to his or her spouse or partner on at least three occasions.

It will not be necessary to prove exact dates or circumstances of the unlawful family violence acts and, at a trial before a jury, each member of the jury will not be required to agree on which unlawful family violence acts constitute the persistent family violence relationship.

The legislation also includes additional circumstances in which self-represented family violence offenders are prevented from cross-examining their victim.

In addition, it clarifies the operation of the Criminal Code offence of ‘maintaining a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 17 years’ in response to recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.