Domestic violence laws broadened to include offences witnessed by children, ACT Attorney-General says

May 12, 2015

Published on ABC News 11 May 2015 by Adrienne Francis

The definition of domestic and family violence will be broadened to include offences witnessed by children under new reforms to the ACT’s domestic violence laws.

Under the laws children who see or hear violence would be considered to have been directly harmed.

Image Source ABC News Ian Cutmore
Image Source: ABC News Ian Cutmore

The proposed reforms to domestic violence laws were announced by ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell at the launch of Law Week 2015 this evening.

The reforms follow the deaths of four Canberrans allegedly killed from domestic violence this year.

It also follows strong and very public lobbying by frontline crisis agencies and other stakeholders.

Under one of several amendments to be introduced to the ACT Legislative Assembly next year, the Government proposes to widen the definition of domestic and family violence to include the toll on child witnesses.

“That can have a very detrimental impact on children and their upbringing and their capacity to live safe and secure lives,” Mr Corbell said.

“Even if the violence hasn’t been committed directly against them they are still victims.”

Mr Corbell said the changes could make it easier for a parent to include children in a Domestic Violence Protection Order because to date it has often required threat or physical injury to children.

ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey welcomed the changes as a “reasonable and fair outcome” but said some stakeholders wanted more detail about the new nationally consistent Domestic Violence Protection Order scheme due to be discussed at a meeting of attorney’s general in Canberra in a fortnight.

He said some stakeholders were also calling for the laws to be tightened further by creating new offences for non-physical violence like emotional and economic abuse.

“Economic control is just another form of domestic violence, another way of subjugating other people,” Mr Hinchey said.

“If someone is abusing someone to the extent that their life is harmed not only in the short term but in the long term I believe that to be criminal behaviour.”

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