Strangulation to carry five-year maximum jail term under new domestic violence laws

Andrew Boog
Andrew Boog

Convicted perpetrators of strangulation in western NSW would be liable for longer maximum jail sentences under a new law to protect victims of domestic violence.

Anyone found guilty of the offence under the proposed legislation would face up to five years in jail.

The government is set to introduce the bill to Parliament in coming weeks.

Statistics show the Orana region is one of the worst in NSW for domestic assaults.  

A peak body for the region’s lawyers has no issue with the proposal, but has urged the government to do more to prevent the offence.

“Orana Law Society welcomes the tidying up of some loose ends in domestic violence offences, but notes these only try to clean up afterwards,” president Andrew Boog said.

“The community would be better served not by jailing offenders for longer, but by measures stopping such offences in the first place.”

In particular, the vast majority of domestic violence involved abuse of drugs or alcohol, Mr Boog said.

“Even court officers note this common trend,” he said.

“We invite the government to join with the community’s push for a drug court in Dubbo and a residential rehabilitation facility.”

In announcing the reform, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said it would provide better outcomes for victims, make perpetrators more accountable and help reduce re-offending.

The bill will include a “simpler” strangulation offence in a bid to boost the rate of convictions, and carrying a five-year maximum term.

“The new offence will resolve the current situation whereby many strangulation incidents are being prosecuted under lesser charges such as common assault, for which the maximum sentence is two years imprisonment,” Mr Speakman said.

Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence Pru Goward said the new strangulation offence recognised the results of research that demonstrated such attacks could be a precursor to tragedy.

“Strangulation is a red flag for domestic violence homicide, so it’s important NSW has a specific offence formulated to capture domestic violence strangulation,” Ms Goward said.

“These reforms are another example of how this government is tougher than ever on the criminals who commit acts of domestic and family violence.”

If passed, the new law will exist alongside the current strangulation offences in the Crimes Act.

The package of reforms will also improve protections for victims under the state’s ADVO regime by:

  • introducing indefinite ADVOs in the most severe cases where other interventions have failed;
  • requiring ADVOs to remain in place for two years after an adult domestic violence offender is released from prison, unless the court determines otherwise; and
  • increasing the default length of ADVOs for adults from 12 months to two years.

The new laws also give the NSW Police Force the power to immediately vary ADVOs to respond to serious and immediate risks to victims.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said this new power would help reduce stress on victims. 

“Evidence shows ADVOs are an important tool to help reduce reoffending and protect victims of domestic violence. These changes will also reduce the trauma victims experience having to attend court to seek extensions and amendments to orders,” Commissioner Fuller said.

The reforms respond to the recommendations of the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team Report 2015 - 2017 and are supported by a comprehensive program of activity to deliver the Premier’s Priority to reduce domestic violence reoffending.

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