Women fearful of violent partners will be able to check their criminal history under new trial

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WOMEN afraid of controlling or violent partners will be able to ask authorities about their criminal history through a new scheme to be trialled in SA that advocates say will save lives.

Based on a British model, the disclosure scheme is a key plank of a State Government blueprint to eradicate domestic violence.

The blueprint includes a pledge to develop “world first” measures to better track domestic violence offences and prevent high-risk and repeat abusers from hurting more people.

 

This could include publicly naming the most dangerous offenders.

The changes stem from a proposed eight-point plan to tackle the scourge of domestic violence which was released by government for public consultation in July last year.

The response is long overdue, as authorities had flagged changes could begin early this year. However, there is widespread support for the plan.

Attorney-General John Rau said the government had considered hundreds of responses to its discussion paper from members of the public and workers in the legal and welfare sectors.

“Domestic violence affects our whole community. The government will work with police, the courts and the Director of Public Prosecutions to find ways to improve the way we collect data about family violence so we have the information to develop targeted programs to better protect South Australians,” he said.

It is understood there have been at least 10 family violence-related deaths in SA so far this year.

The Advertiser first revealed in November 2015 that the government was considering a domestic violence disclosure scheme.

Known as Clare’s Law, it was introduced in the UK following the brutal 2009 murder of Clare Wood, who was oblivious of her partner’s history of abuse.

The SA Government acknowledges there would be privacy concerns and is further consulting on who should be able to apply for information about a person’s record, who should decide whether to release information, and whether a person should be able to appeal against the release of their record.

The trial will be managed by SA Police, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Office for Women.

The blueprint also promises to change the law to enable police to use footage taken by body-worn cameras or smartphones at the scene of a family violence incident, or interviews with victims, as evidence in court.

More offences will be classified as “aggravated” so that courts can impose tougher penalties.

For example, assaults against a spouse, former spouse or child are currently an aggravated offence. New laws will extend to grandchild, sibling, carer and Aboriginal kin relationships.

The government has committed to better identifying and tracking domestic violence offences in its IT systems and establishing a central body to analyse the data. However, it will not impose an expiry date on court orders put in place to protect abuse victims, after public feedback warned it could put people at risk.

Such court orders interstate are limited to as little as a year.

STEPS TO END DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

■ TRIALLING a domestic violence disclosure scheme in SA, like that operating in the UK. It would enable people worried about a partner’s abusive or violent behaviour to ask authorities about their criminal history.

■ ALLOWING video evidence recorded by police, including interviews or at a scene, to be admissible in court.

■ BROADENING the legal definition of abuse to include forced marriage and threatening to publish intimate photos or videos of a partner, taken with or without consent.

■ CLASSIFYING more domestic violence-related offences as aggravated offences so that tougher penalties can be imposed.

■ FLAGGING domestic violence offences in data systems to better track trends and establishing a central body to analyse the data.

■ NOT imposing an expiry date on court orders put in place to protect abuse victims, following concerns this could put people at risk.

■ INCLUDING domestic violence as a ground for discrimination under equal opportunity laws, to protect victims from being unfairly fired or evicted from housing.

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