Domestic Violence- Recent Changes

6th July 2017

In February 2015 the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence released the ‘Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland’ report to the Palaszcuk government. Since then, stakeholders and legislators have acted in line with the report’s recommendations to ensure tougher penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence, as well as stronger protection for victims.

The majority of the changes came into effect on 30 May 2017, with the recommendation implementing national recognition of state Domestic Violence Orders anticipated to come into effect in November 2017. This further change will allow for Orders made interstate to be automatically recognised (provided they have been served) anywhere in in Australia.

Here are the key amendments made recently:

1. The scope of police powers has been increased to ensure victim protection. Police must now consider what, if any, immediate action must be taken to facilitate victim protection until the matter can be heard in court, and they now have increased powers to allow someone to remain at a residence or to remove them from the residence until matter is dealt with further.

2. The Court is now required to consider any existing Family Law Order and whether that Order needs to be varied or suspended if it is inconsistent with the protection needs of the victim. This allows Courts to make Domestic Violence Orders and Family Law Orders consistent with one another and to put victim’s needs first. Applicants must also now inform the Court when there is another relevant Order (be it a Family Law Order, Children’s Court Order or interstate Domestic Violence Order).

3. Information can now be shared without consent between government and non-government entities in order to enable risk assessment and management of domestic and family violence threats. Information can only be shared to the extent it is relevant to assessing or managing a serious threat to a person’s life, health or safety.

4. The two year maximum period for a Domestic Violence Order has been increased to five years, and the Court’s discretion has been broadened to the effect that they can make an Order for the maximum five year period unless there are reasons the period should be lessened. Further, if the duration is not specified, it will be an automatic five year Order.

5. In a criminal sphere, the amendments have also increased the penalty for breaches of Domestic Violence Orders. First time breaches now carry a maximum penalty of 3 years or 120 penalty units (currently $14,628.00), however if you have breached the Order within the previous five years then maximum penalty is increased to five years imprisonment or 240 penalty units (currently $24,272.00).

Despite the above changes offering increased protection to victims of domestic violence, the law remains a complex area and there is still work to be done. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact us for professional advice.

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