Victorian men and women found guilty of breaking family-violence orders or trying to strangle their partners will be slapped with mandatory jail sentences under a new Coalition plan, as the scourge of domestic abuse emerges as a battleground election issue.
The Victorian Coalition and the Andrews government took to the campaign trail yesterday to announce separate family violence initiatives, each pledging to tackle the issue through tougher sentencing as well as more crisis and alternative accommodation.
The major parties have sharpened their focus on domestic abuse and family violence ahead of the November 24 poll, in a month when two more Victorian women have died as the result of family and domestic violence.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy announced a plan to extend mandatory minimum jail sentences to three specific family violence offences, including breaking family violence orders and notices, as well as non-lethal strangulation, choking or suffocation.
Under the plan, offenders who go against a family violence notice or order could face an automatic minimum jail term of two years, and three years if they are found to repeatedly break the notice or order.
The opposition has also tried to clamp down on the rising incidence of offenders who choke, strangle and suffocate — but don’t kill — their victims, by handing violent reoffenders who commit the act automatic minimum sentences of six years.
Mr Guy said the new sentencing regime took aim at violent repeat offenders.
“There are literally thousands of breaches of family violence orders, mostly against women and children, that go on every year,” opposition legal spokesman John Pesutto said.
People who repeatedly breach intervention orders will be subject to tougher penalties under new measures to prevent domestic violence in South Australia.
The South Australian state government will introduce the legislation to parliament on Tuesday allowing for anyone found to have breached two orders within five years to be liable to a four-year jail term or a fine of up to $20,000.
Acting Premier Vickie Chapman says the move would help provide a strong deterrent to would-be perpetrators of domestic violence.
“Intervention orders are designed to protect people from harm and when someone shows a clear, repeated disregard for these orders they deserve to face the full force of the law,” Ms Chapman said.
“By strengthening the penalty, we will send a stronger message to the community that this type of offending will not be tolerated, and that those who do will face severe consequences.”
The government’s bill also expands the definition of abuse under intervention orders to include forced marriage, preventing a person from entering their place of residence and threatening to distribute invasive images of a person without consent.
Attempts to strangle a person will also become a separate offence and, if alleged, will invoke a presumption against bail.
The Palaszczuk Government has welcomed the recommendations of the Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board in its 2017-18 annual report tabled to Queensland Parliament today.
The Board – established by the Palaszczuk Government in 2016 following the landmark Not Now, Not Ever report – has handed down 13 recommendations to enhance and complement the existing response to domestic and family violence.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the government would carefully consider the report’s recommendations.
“The Board plays an important role in ensuring government and community services protect the victims of domestic and family violence, while also ensuring perpetrators are held accountable,” she said.
“I thank the members of the Board for bringing their wealth of experience and insight across various sectors to this important body of work. As they have noted in their report, for each death as a result of domestic and family violence, there are family and friends who are forever changed.
These reforms include:
- creating specialised domestic and family violence courts, introducing strangulation as a stand-alone offence;
- amending the Criminal Code to ensure that any charge of conviction that happens in the domestic and family violence context is noted on an offender’s record;
- extending the length of domestic and family violence orders to five years;
- increasing the maximum penalty for breaches of domestic violence orders;
- publishing domestic and family violence statistics online; and
- providing funding to enhance Community Justice Groups and Community Legal Centres.
The report includes the Board’s findings from the review of the deaths of 30 women, children and men who have tragically lost their lives to domestic and family violence.
The recommendations relate to a range of government agencies, including the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, Queensland Health and the Queensland Police Service, and aim to enhance the knowledge and training of front-line service officers, reduce recidivism risk and strengthen the response to perpetrators of domestic and family violence.