Page 3482 - Week 11 - Thursday, 24 September 2015

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These amendments engage and support the rights of defendants in criminal proceedings where the person also has a DVO pending in relation to those proceedings. This right is supported because the respondent to the DVO, who has been charged with the criminal offence, is not required to test the evidence in relation to the criminal charges or to confess guilt through the hearing of the DVO proceeding. There are a number of safeguards contained in the bill to ensure the least restrictive measure available has been relied upon to ensure the rights of applicants and respondents are protected in domestic violence order proceedings.

Finally, turning to the amendments to evidence provisions, the bill makes a number of amendments to the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1991. There are three main categories of amendments in this part of the bill. They will all contribute to the important work already completed through the ACT’s sexual assault reform program.

The first deals with amendments to the definitions of serious violent offence and less serious violent offence to ensure sufficient protections for victims of crime who give evidence in criminal proceedings. The definition of less serious violent offence is amended to remove the offence of stalking and includes offences relating to breaching a domestic violence order and destroying or damaging property.

Including these new offences means that the special measures under division 4.2.2 will now apply to complainants who can demonstrate that there was a relevant relationship between the witness and the defendant. This is an important amendment which ensures that complainants of domestic and family violence are not subject to further victimisation during criminal proceedings for breaches of DVOs or damage to property offences.

The bill proposes to also include the offences of stalking, burglary and aggravated burglary under the definition of serious violent offence. People who have been subjected to these offences will now be able to give evidence and have the special measures under division 4.2.2 apply whether or not there was a relevant relationship.

Amendments also insert a new scheme allowing a police interview of the first complaint of domestic and family violence to be used in court as the complainant’s primary evidence-in-chief. This evidence may be used in other proceedings where the evidence is relevant and appropriate submissions are made as to whether the evidence could be appropriate in the circumstances. The provisions do not expressly restrict the use of such evidence in other proceedings, instead allowing for the rules of evidence to apply.

This reform aims to reduce trauma to the victim caused by testifying in court and to improve the accuracy of the evidence as the statement will likely be taken shortly after a domestic violence incident has occurred. This protects families by ensuring that family violence incidents are recorded and addressed by the law where necessary.

The government acknowledges that this bill engages with the Human Rights Act in a number of ways. The bill engages and places limits on the rights to protection of family and children, freedom and movement, the right to liberty and security of

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