From 6 August 2020 some provisions of the Family Violence Legislation Reform Act 2020 commence, amending the Criminal Code, Sentencing Act 1995, Bail Act 1982 and Restraining Orders Act 1997, among others.
Family violence – Bail considerations
The court may defer consideration of bail for 30 days for an accused charged with an offence where the accused is in a family relationship with the victim, as defined in s 3 of the Bail Act. The purpose of the deferral is to allow the court to determine what, if any, bail conditions should be imposed to enhance the protection of the victim of the alleged offence.
There are additional provisions relating to the interaction of bail conditions and restraining orders.
Family violence – Restraining orders
Sections 3 to 6A of the Restraining Orders Act define all relevant terms used in the Act, including what constitutes ‘family violence’.
Some of the amendments deal with the conduct of family violence proceedings.
The court must enquire as to whether any family law orders are in place for the parties to a restraining order application before the court makes a restraining order. If family law orders are in place, the court must take reasonable steps to obtain a copy or information about the orders and take their terms into account.
At any defended hearing the court is not bound by the rules of evidence and may inform itself on any matter in such a manner as it sees fit: s 44A. This section also specifically makes hearsay evidence admissible.
Victims of family violence may have one or more support person with them when they give evidence.
The court, either on its own motion or at the request of a party, may use CCTV or other screening arrangements for the giving of evidence by any party or witness in restraining order proceedings, subject to consideration of a number of factors set out in s 44E.
The By Lawyers Criminal and Restraining orders guides have been updated accordingly.
Further provisions of the amending Act will commence in October 2020. By Lawyers guides will be further updated when those amendments commence.