Qld Government Beefs Up Domestic Violence Laws - Improves Rights for Victims
Recently the Qld Government has radically changed the way aspects of domestic violence will be handled in the Courts and to aid victims of domestic violence.
In what has ended up being something of a focused bipartisan night in State Parliament, each of the Bills introduced by the LNP in opposition and one by the Labor Government are to pass into law.
The combined impact of the Bills passing will be to change the law in the following manner:
The Question of Bail for Accused Perpetrators of Domestic Violence
The community has clearly been concerned by persons who have committed Domestic Violence and who have been bailed or permitted to remain in the community rather than in custody, later going on to kill or further harm their victims and associates and even their children. The crimes are heinous in nature and committed against persons who are deserving of protection.
The new laws reverse the onus of proof in cases where someone is charged with an offence associated with domestic violence, meaning that the accused will need to show cause why they should be granted bail.
The laws introduce as an option for considering granting someone bail that a person can be fitted with a GPS tracking device.
The laws also require victims of domestic violence to be notified if an accused perpetrator of domestic violence is applying for bail, is to be released on bail or where there has been a variation to any bail conditions – previously this did not happen on a mandatory basis.
The new laws also permit urgent reviews of bail decisions by a higher Court and that during the appeal period, the bail decision could be stayed, meaning the Crown or police prosecutor can ask that the accused/offender remain in custody and behind bars without release until the higher Court has ruled.
Victims of Crime Scheme – Application to Cases Where Victims are Victims of Domestic Violence
In addition to changing the bail laws discussed above, changes to the legislative framework also set about trying to improve the provision of services and wider protections for victims of domestic violence.
The new laws move to implement recommendations from the Not Now; Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland report which was released in 2015.
While the Qld Government had enacted the some of the 140 recommendations, until last night, many of the recommendations had not been implemented.
The Not Now; Not Ever report recommended recording on a person’s criminal record that the offence was in the context of domestic and family violence (DFV). This change will allow Courts to consider a perpetrator’s history in context and subjectively consider his or her conduct in subsequent instances of sentencing for similar matters.
This change will work in tandem with the bail law changes so as to exclude any presumption of bail for perpetrators arrested by police for DFV related offences. A record of DFV offences will make it very hard for someone to overcome the new positive onus of proof on someone applying for bail if there is a previous record of any DFV offence.
The changes to the current laws will allow victims of DFV to be armed with prior knowledge that a perpetrator is to be released on bail or prison. Such knowledge will afford victims some time to make themselves as safe as possible or consider changes they may want to implement, including making an application for a wider or varied Protection Order.
The changes also strengthen the Court’s power to prevent a perpetrator having access to a victim’s therapeutic counseling records and the Court’s power to control how a victim is able to give their evidence in Court so as to be protected as far as is possible, from further emotional impacts of being in the presence of or cross-examined by the alleged perpetrator.
Under the new laws, victims of DFV will also have increased and more streamlined rights to seek financial aid from the Government if they qualify. Barriers to qualification for support have been clarified to take into account the special nature of DFV and how it affects people and their capacity to function.
We would like to say that these “Victims’ Rights” oriented changes are ‘ground breaking’, however, Queenslanders are simply being brought into line with the rights of parties in the majority of States who have already passed laws of a similar nature.
We sincerely hope that these changes assist victims of domestic violence feel safer and for the laws to function better.
We continue to advocate that the most appropriate responses to domestic violence at the current point in time are:
- The immediate change of community attitudes to violence and adopting a “Not Now Not Ever” approach in our society;
- Ongoing education of children from an early age and throughout their schooling about community standards and expectations and about their rights and duties amongst society and in their relationships; and
- Increased funding to Domestic and Family Violence and Family Law Courts to process and handle matters involving domestic violence matters.