In New South Wales the Offence of Coercive Control Will Commence on 01 July 2024

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In October 2020, the NSW parliament established the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control to inquire and report on Coercive Control in domestic relationships. It recommended that Coercive Control be criminalised which led to Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Act 2022 creating the offence of Coercive Control which will commence on 01 July 2024.

In this blog, Penrith Criminal Lawyers | AMA Legal summarise some of the reasons for the new offence, what the prosecution need to prove for such an offence and the penalty for the new offence.

Reasons for the Coercive Control Offence

The Joint Select Committee reviewed the 2017 – 2019 report of Domestic Violence Death Review Team which concluded that between 2008 – 2016 there were 112 intimate partner domestic violence homicides in 111 of which it was found that the abuser used coercive and controlling behaviours towards the deceased victim.

The Joint Select Committee’s recommendation also seeks to address the limitations in the existing domestic violence criminal laws which respond to single incidents and fails to consider the totality of the conduct of perpetrators in domestic relationships.

The recommendation further seeks to align criminal laws with other common law jurisdictions which have tried to address Coercive Control conduct in domestic relationships.

The Offence of Coercive Control

The offence of Coercive Control is contained in section 54D(1) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which states:

  • An adult commits an offence if—
  • the adult engages in a course of conduct against another person that consists of abusive behaviour, and
  • the adult and other person are or were intimate partners, and
  • the adult intends the course of conduct to coerce or control the other person, and
  • a reasonable person would consider the course of conduct would be likely, in all the circumstances, to cause any or all of the following, whether or not the fear or impact is in fact caused—
  • fear that violence will be used against the other person or another person, or
  • a serious adverse impact on the capacity of the other person to engage in some or all of the person’s ordinary day-to-day activities.

The prosecution bears the onus to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following: 

  1. The accused was an adult,
  2. The accused and the complainant were or are intimate partners,
  3. The accused engaged in a course of conduct towards the complainant,
  4. The course of conduct engaged by the accused amounted to abusive behaviour,
  5. The accused intended for the course of conduct they engaged in to control or coerce the complainant,
  6. A reasonable person would consider the course of conduct to cause:
  1. fear that violence will be used against the complainant or another person, and/or
  2. a serious adverse impact on the capacity of the complainant to engage in some or all of their ordinary day-to-day activities.

According to Penrith Criminal Lawyers | AMA Legal, this offence like all domestic violence offences is serious and perhaps even more serious considering the maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment compared to an assault occasioning actual bodily harm offence which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

A course of conduct means engaging in behaviour that is either repeatedly or continuously or both repeatedly and continuously and can be in NSW or another jurisdiction as per section 54G Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Section 54F(2) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) provides examples of behaviours that, if engaged in or threated, may constitute abusive behaviour which include:

  • causing harm to any person if the person’s demands are not met,
  • economic or financial abuse,
  • shaming, degrading, humiliating, harassing, monitoring and tracking,
  • damaging or destroying property; or harming animals,
  • isolating from family, friends and culture,
  • denying liberty or unreasonably controlling or regulating day-to-day activities.

According to Criminal Lawyers Penrith | AMA Legal, the legislation has provided examples of conduct that may amount to abusive behaviour which can be summarised as:

Economic or Financial abuse

  • withholding financial support necessary for meeting the reasonable living expenses of a person in circumstances in which the person is dependent on the financial support to meet the person’s living expenses
  • preventing, or unreasonably restricting a person seeking or keeping employment

According to NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research between April 2023 and March 2024, the were 100,025 recorded domestic violence incidents in NSW. The offence of Coercive Control seeks to criminalise conduct which if left unchecked could escalate to intimate partner domestic violence homicides.

If you have been charged with criminal offences or traffic offences, contact traffic lawyers Penrith, AMA Legal on (02) 8610 3764.

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