On 19 November, the Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment passed NSW Parliament, making significant reforms to the Criminal Procedure Act 1986. This is part of a broader reform of domestic violence legislation in NSW in order to better protect victim-survivors of domestic and family violence
Victims may now give evidence in closed court, meaning that only certain people are allowed to come into the courtroom, in contrast to open court where anyone is able to come in and watch the case from the public sitting area. The victim-survivor may also now opt to give evidence via audio-visual link. Under the current laws, evidence can only be given remotely if the court grants permission. Now, victims have a prima facie right to give evidence this way.
Victims are also now excused from personal cross-examination from self-represented accused. Previously, if the accused was representing themselves (rather than having a lawyer), they were able to cross-examine the victim directly, which created a highly traumatic experience for the victim of the domestic violence, and was seen by some victims as an extension of the same violence and abuse they had experienced previously. The reforms are intended to ease the burden and ensure victims are better supported, according to Attorney-General Mark Speakman.
Another important reform is that the protection of family pets will be a standard condition in Apprehended Personal Violence Orders (APVOs). The Attorney-General said that animals are used in manipulative, coercive control situations to punish the victim who has tried to leave the relationship. Now harm, or threatened harm, to harms will be classed explicitly as a form of intimidation, and protection of the animal/s will be a standard condition.
If you or someone you know is concerned about your legal rights in a relationship, whether it be issues relating to domestic violence, property settlement or child custody, please do not hesitate to contact Freedman & Gopalan Solicitor on 02 8917 8700 for advice.