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Key developments

  • Discussion Paper: Coercive Control
  • Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020
  • Exposure draft of the Crimes Legislation (Offences Against Pregnant Women) Bill 2020
  • Options for mandatory adoption of electronic invoicing by businesses
  • Commonwealth Integrity Commission Bill 2020 – exposure draft
  • Inquiry into the Firearms and Weapons Legislation Amendment (Criminal Use) Bill 2020
  • Proposed Local Character Clause

Discussion Paper: Coercive Control

The Criminal Law Committee contributed to a submission to the Joint Committee on Coercive Control, responding to questions raised in its discussion paper. The Law Society’s position is that there is a gap in the current law and an appropriate way to address coercive controlling behaviour is via a specific criminal offence.

A criminal offence has the benefit of covering the conduct not currently addressed by existing offences or Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (‘ADVOs’), and sends a clear message to the community that coercive and controlling behaviour is unacceptable. We noted that a high level of seriousness would need to be demonstrated to justify a criminal response.

We submitted that the offence should be very tightly prescribed and tailored. As coercive control can cover a wide variety of conduct and motivations, a legislative response will necessarily need to be finely tuned, and may be difficult to draft. A broad-brush offence would risk criminalising dynamics and behaviour within relationships that does not warrant criminal sanction. The submission details what we consider to be the essential elements of any new offence.

We noted that the justice system is only a partial solution to addressing coercive controlling behaviour. Victims need to feel empowered to leave these relationships and sufficient social supports must be in place to allow them to do so. Women’s shelters and domestic violence services must be properly funded and resourced. We submitted that the further expansion of criminal offences and sanctions should be accompanied by investment in therapeutic based programs to ensure perpetrators address the underlying causes of their behaviour.

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