Recent Changes to Domestic Violence Laws – What Does It Really Mean?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Recently, the Queensland Government enacted new legislation resulting in some significant changes to the domestic violence laws in Queensland. The Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Act 2015 was passed on 15 October 2015.

A summary of the changes that this new legislation has created include;

  1. The maximum penalty for an offence of domestic violence has increased. The maximum penalty is now 120 penalty units (currently $14,136) or 3 years imprisonment, whereas previously the maximum penalty was two (2) years imprisonment.
  2. The maximum penalty for committing a subsequent offence of domestic violence has also increased. This means that if the offender has, within the previous 5 years, been convicted of a domestic violence offence, the maximum penalty for contravening an order is 240 penalty units ($28,272) or 5 years imprisonment. Previously the maximum penalty was three (3) years imprisonment.
  3. Section 1 of the criminal code now includes a definition of domestic violence. This means that any offence committed in the context of a domestic or family relationship will be considered to be an offence of domestic violence.
  4. If a Court takes the view that the matter is serious in nature and the imposition of a sentence of three (3) years imprisonment or less would be inadequate, the matter must be heard on indictment, and as such, be committed to the District Court for finalisation.
  5. A person, against who it is alleged domestic violence has been committed, will be deemed to be a “special witness.” It is likely that this will mean that specific measures will be taken when those persons are giving evidence about the matter. These could include screens being put in place, support personnel being present and even evidence being given remotely or pre recorded.
  6. The prosecution can apply to have previous offences declared as domestic violence offences. This means that the offender’s criminal history will be updated and amended.

Further changes were made to the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 on 17 December 2015. Specifically, these are summarised as follows;

  1. The Court must hear cross application together, whereas previously this was at the discretion of the Court.
  2. A court must consider whether an ouster order prohibiting the respondent from attending at the matrimonial home is a necessary inclusion in any temporary and final order. The Court can take into account the view of the aggrieved person.
  3. All Courts must also now have regard to a victim impact statement in applications for a protection order to ensure that victim is being heard.
  4. An aggrieved can appeal a decision made by a Magistrate to refuse to grant an application for a temporary order.

There is a further bill currently before parliament, entitled Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Bill (No 2) 2015. Perhaps the most significant of the proposed amendments contained in that bill is the inclusion of a new offence under the criminal code, namely, “choking, suffocation, and strangulation in a domestic setting.” The maximum penalty for such an offence would be seven (7) years imprisonment.

If this bill is passed as law, it will undoubtedly generate further changes to the current laws surrounding domestic violence.

How We Can Help

If you would like to discuss any matter involving domestic violence please feel free to contact our Criminal Law Team.

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