Page 3656 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 27 October 2015

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Government reforms and initiatives have been developed to align with the government’s commitments outlined in the second implementation plan for the ACT’s prevention of violence against women and children strategy 2011-2017, which the Attorney-General and the Minister for Women launched on 17 August 2015.

The second implementation plan provides a whole-of-government policy framework for addressing domestic and family violence in the ACT and reflects on the territory’s commitments under the national plan to reduce violence against women and children 2010-2022. The purpose of the amendments in this bill is to protect victims of domestic and family violence from further traumatisation.

The government acknowledges the challenge of balancing the rights of perpetrators within the criminal justice system with the right of survivors to live a life without fear. The government believes that the legislation represents a balance of these interests and achieves what must be our priority in this area—that is, the protection of women and children and their families. This bill is a good example of the balance between the human rights of a person affected by changes in the law and the public interest to protect an individual’s right to safety within their home and in the community. It is the first of a staged reform focused on strengthening responses to domestic and family violence, and I take the opportunity to highlight some of the key amendments in the bill.

The amendments proposed include amending section 28 of the Crimes Act 1900 to reflect that strangulation that does not cause unconsciousness is still an act that endangers health and amending the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008 to create a new class of interim domestic violence order, or DVO, to allow a court to extend interim DVOs when there are current criminal charges unresolved before the court.

The bill will also amend the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1991 to allow police records of interview to be admitted as evidence-in-chief for domestic violence offence proceedings, expand the special measures provisions so that they apply to breaches of domestic violence orders and other select offences and make a number of consequential amendments as a result of the new evidence-in-chief provisions.

I would like to speak mostly about the amendments to the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1991 which also contribute to the important work already completed through the ACT’s sexual assault reform program. There are two main amendments to this act. The first deals with the amendments to the definition of “serious violent offence” and “less serious violent offence” to ensure sufficient protections for victims of crime who give evidence in criminal proceedings.

Under the new legislation, victims of all stalking and burglary offences when the victim is present will be able to give their evidence and the special measures under division 4.2.2 will apply, whether the offence occurred in a domestic or family context or not. In addition, when a person is charged with destroying or damaging property or being in breach of a domestic violence order, witnesses who have a relevant relationship with the accused will be able to have all the special measures

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