As Attorney General I've been passionate about protecting women, men and children against domestic and sexual abuse.
I have, for example, overseen legislation which has: reformed the law of sexual consent; facilitated jury directions about rape myths; introduced new crimes of failing to report and failing to protect against child abuse; toughened criminal sentencing for child abuse; seen NSW be one of first two states to sign up to the national child abuse redress scheme; made it easier to allow coincidence and tendency evidence of child abuse in court; made it easier for sexual assault and domestic violence complainants to give their evidence in court; expanded the civil liability and the duty of care of institutions regarding offending behaviour by their personnel and removing technical legal obstacles; and allowed child abuse complainants to have courts set aside unfair settlements. In doing this I've been helped by some extraordinary advocate-survivors who've shared their own stories and fought for reform.
This month I've released, for public consultation, a draft bill to criminalise coercive control in intimate partner relationships.
Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse involving repeated patterns of abusive behaviour - which can include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse - the cumulative effect of which is to rob victim-survivors of their autonomy and independence. The impact of this abuse is abhorrent: many victim-survivors will describe the mental torture as worse than physical violence.
Coercive control is also a "red flag" for intimate partner domestic violence homicide.
The Domestic Violence Death Review Team led by the State Coroner noted coercive control was a precursor in 111 of the 112 (99%) intimate partner domestic violence homicides in NSW between March 2008 and June 2016 that it reviewed.
Creating a new stand-alone coercive control offence will strengthen our criminal justice system's responses to domestic abuse. However, we have to proceed very cautiously and methodically to make sure this doesn't unintentionally harm the very people in our community we're seeking to help; and to avoid over-reach by capturing only conduct of the very serious standard deserving of criminal sanction. That's why the NSW Government is consulting widely on the draft bill and proposes a lengthy period for training, education and awareness for police, the courts, service providers and the general community before the legislation commences.
The bill is part of the government's ambitious program to drive down domestic abuse - which includes an additional $484.3 million which I announced last year for extra housing and specialist supports for women and children experiencing domestic and family violence (for example, doubling the number of refuge places).
To have your say on the draft bill, please visit https://www.nsw.gov.au/have-your-say/coercive-control-exposure-draft-bill. Consultation closes 31 August 2022.
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