Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Victoria: New Domestic Violence Laws

Victoria Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls has introduced a standalone Family Violence Protection Bill in the lower house, following the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission.

One of the key initiatives in the bill is to recognise economic abuse as a form of domestic violence.

Another key innovation is to make it harder for respondents to cross-examined aggrieved's if the repsondent is self-represented. One of the greatest difficulties at the moment in this type of proceeding is exactly where that occurs, and where the cross-examination appears to be less than that of legal proceedings, and more of a family domestic, with all the inherent abuse and inequality in that scenario, which just happens to occur in a courtroon rather than a bedroom.

Here is the Ministerial Media release:


Women and children who are victims of family violence will be better protected under landmark Brumby Government legislation to be introduced into Parliament today.

Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said the Family Violence Protection Bill would increase the protection available to victims and make perpetrators more accountable for their actions.

“This Bill challenges the pervasive attitude that family violence is a domestic matter. Family violence is a crime worthy of a significant response by the justice system,” he said.

“The new Bill also ensures the justice system does not compound the devastating effects of family violence by failing to provide a supportive response to women or by discouraging victims from reporting incidents.”

Women’s Affairs Minister Maxine Morand said police attended about 30,000 family violence incidents a year and about 29 per cent of these were repeated calls to the same parties.

“Family violence is found in all parts of our community, irrespective of economic status, education, age, or family situation,” she said.

“Sadly family violence is committed by those who are supposed to nurture and love, not dominate and abuse.

“Family violence remains the leading contributor to preventable death, disability and illness in women between the ages of 15 and 44. Addressing family violence is one of the most important challenges facing our community.”

Mr Hulls said the Family Violence Protection Bill would replace the 21-year-old Crimes (Family Violence) Act, after the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) recommended a stand-alone Act to provide a targeted and cohesive response to family violence.

He said the VLRC found the intervention order system often let women down – it could be inaccessible, frightening and ineffective. The centrepiece of the new legislation is an improved system of family violence intervention orders.

“In 2006-07, approximately 11,000 intervention orders were made against family members,” Mr Hulls said. “The proposed legislation means police can better respond to the threat of family violence after-hours through police-issued family violence safety notices.”

Other key elements of the Bill include:
· Making it easier for victims of family violence to remain in the family home with their children while the perpetrator may be required to leave;
· Restricting the ability of self-represented alleged perpetrators of family violence to personally cross-examine their victims in court;
· Defining family violence to include economic and emotional abuse, as well as other types of threatening and controlling behaviour, for the purpose of seeking intervention orders; and
· Broadening the definition of ‘family member’ to cover contemporary families and include carers of persons with a disability in ‘family-like’ relationships.

The legislation also adopts the Sentencing Advisory Council’s recommendation for a maximum penalty of two years’ jail for any breach of intervention orders and police-issued safety notices.

Mr Hulls said the legislation was the result of a strong partnership between many Government agencies and community stakeholders and he thanked them for their input. He said the legislation would provide an integrated response to family violence by police, courts, and justice and community agencies.

Ms Morand said the Brumby Government committed $24.7 million towards breaking the cycle of abuse and supporting victims in this year’s State Budget, building on an investment of $50 million since 2005.

She said community awareness would play an integral part in the next phase of eradicating violence against women and this aim would be supported through a $1.5 million family violence communication campaign.

“The Family Violence Protection Bill makes it crystal clear that family violence should not, and will not, be tolerated in our society and that women and children are entitled to be protected,” Ms Morand said.

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