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New Laws Introduced To Tackle Family & Domestic Violence In Our Community

Family violence laws in WA have changed recently.

The Family Violence Legislation Reform Act 2020 was passed into law by WA’s parliament in June 2020 – and some major changes will come into force on 1 October 2020.

The legislation aims to increase protection for family and domestic violence victims. Minister for Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, Ms Simone McGurk, stated when the bill was passed that 'we cannot ignore the growing awareness of the inherent danger of non-fatal strangulation and how it can be a precursor to escalating violence.'

What exactly does this Act do?

The Family Violence Legislation Reform Act 2020 makes changes to a number of areas of legislation including:

  • The Criminal Code;
  • Sentencing Act 1995;
  • Sentence Administration Act 2003;
  • Bail Act 1982;
  • Restraining Orders Act 1997;
  • Police Act 1892;
  • Road Traffic (Administration) Act 2008;
  • Dangerous Goods Safety Act 2004; and
  • Evidence Act 1906.

TWO MAJOR CHANGES COMING

On 1 October 2020 two major changes will come into effect:

1. A new offence at section 298 of the Criminal Code: Suffocation and Strangulation; and

2. A new offence at section 300 of the Criminal Code: Persistent Family Violence

As to 1:

The new offence at section 298 of the Criminal Code: Suffocation and Strangulation

This offence is committed in circumstances where a person impedes another’s normal breathing, blood circulation, or both, either manually, or by using any other aid:

  • blocking (completely or partially) another’s nose or mouth; or
  • applying pressure on or to another’s neck.

Where the elements of the offence of Suffocation and Strangulation cannot be established, then Common Assault is prescribed as an alternative offence.

The maximum penalty for an offence under section 298 of the Criminal Code is seven years imprisonment if committed in circumstances of aggravation or, in any other case, five years imprisonment.

The summary conviction penalty is three years imprisonment and a fine of $36,000 if committed in circumstances of aggravation or, in any other case, two years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000.

As to 2:

The new offence at section 300 of the Criminal Code: Persistent Family Violence

This offence will be committed if a person persistently engages in family violence as defined in section 299(5) of the Criminal Code, namely, where a person commits three or more acts of family violence, within a 10-year period, against a person with whom they are in a designated family relationship.

The term “act of family violence” incorporates a number of different offences already contained in the Criminal Code and also incorporates offences in the Restraining Orders Act.

The term “designated family relationship” is defined to mean, a relationship between two persons:

  • who are, or were, married to each other;
  • who are, or were, in a de facto relationship with each other; or
  • who have, or have had, an intimate personal relationship with each other.

The maximum penalty for an offence against section 300 of the Criminal Code is 14 years imprisonment. If the offence is dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court the maximum penalty is 3 years and a fine of $36,000.

OTHER CHANGES THAT WILL COME INTO EFFECT IN 2020

The Family Violence Legislation Reform Act 2020 also includes a number of other changes which will soon, come into effect. The changes include:

  • Aggravated penalties for offences commonly occurring in family violence situations, such as Depravation of Liberty and Threats to Kill, Criminal Damage;
  • Police will be required to record every family violence incident;
  • Vehicle owners who are family violence victims will be exempted from the requirement to identify the driver responsible for committing a traffic offence, where the owner of the vehicle involved in the offence can demonstrate that to do so may result in family violence;
  • Laws making it easier for evidence of family violence to be introduced in criminal trials;
  • Allowance for additional jury directions to counter stereotypes and misconceptions;
  • Further amendments to the Restraining Orders Act and Bail Act to enhance victim safety and protection, and
  • The introduction of a ‘Serial Family Violence Offender’ declaration, for family violence offenders with two or more convictions (to come into effect 1 January 2021).

WE CAN HELP

The tough new laws in WA highlight the seriousness with which our parliament is dealing with domestic and family violence offences in Western Australia.

Andrew Williams has extensive experience in a wide range of violence related matters that come before the courts. He has acted on a large number of cases involving domestic and family violence and is well equipped to represent clients on these matters.

If you find yourself facing violence related charge, contact an experienced criminal lawyer at the Law Office of Andrew Williams on (08) 9278 2575 to attain advice and representation or enquire online today.

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At Andrew Williams Criminal Law we're here to help you with the best legal advice.

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