NSW considers crackdown on ‘dominating’ husbands

Australian Financial Review
Aaron Patrick
Aaron PatrickSenior correspondent
To reduce the stubbornly high number of women emotionally and financially abused by their husbands, NSW is considering a fundamental change in the way marriages are policed: by prosecuting spouses who control their partners’ behaviour.

State Attorney-General Mark Speakman has, under pressure from domestic violence advocates and the Labor opposition, promised to fast-track a review by the NSW Department of Justice into laws that criminalise what is known as coercive control.

Agent of change: journalist Jess Hill won the Stella Prize for a book on domestic violence. Louie Douvis

On Tuesday, Labor MPs agreed to propose their own bill that would make it a crime to engage in a “pattern of domination”, including degrading, frightening or controlling someone, cutting them off from friends, relatives, doctors or lawyers, or monitoring their day-to-day activities.

The wording is designed to catch men who inflict psychological harm on women before relationships descend into violence. A review by the NSW Coroners Court found 99 per cent of domestic homicides were preceded by some form of coercive control.

The new law would allow police to prosecute men for patterns of behaviour, rather than individual assaults that are often regarded as minor by the criminal justice system.

“It’s quite a big change to go from an incident-based system to a course of conduct over time that involves power and control and intimidatory tactics,” said Hayley Foster, the chief executive of Women’s Safety NSW, which is one of the advocates of the change. “The legislative reform will be a really important step.”

Part of the impetus for the measure came from former ABC journalist Jess Hill, who wrote a book about women under the control of violent partners, See What You Made Me Do, which has been lavished with awards.

Ms Hill has cited the example of a husband who forced his wife to sleep in their car with their newly born child. She was only allowed inside the family home to clean and for sex, according to Ms Hill.

The number of murders by an intimate partner have ranged between 49 and 64 each year this decade, according to the national homicide monitoring program.

“Introducing a new offence for coercive control in NSW would be a highly complex but potentially very worthwhile reform and one which absolutely merits thorough research and consultation,” Mr Speakman said.

‘Orwellian Liberals’

Some conservatives have expressed concern that the law would penalise men for behaviour that upsets their wives but should not be considered criminal.

Mark Latham, One Nation’s leader in NSW, said husbands could be jailed for 14 years for withdrawing money from a joint bank account and driving the family car without permission.

“The NSW Orwellian Liberals are now aiming to put marriages and families on trial for the newly invented DV [domestic violence] offence, coercive control,” he tweeted. “A shocking, misleading grab for power.”

Ms Foster said the examples cited by Mr Latham were “preposterous and quite absurd”.

Labor’s draft law includes a defence that specifies that unreasonable behaviour is not necessarily criminal to ensure “people who behave poorly don’t end up with a criminal sanction”, said Trish Doyle, Labor’s spokeswoman for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The law would not, however, require prosecutors to prove that a victim had been harmed psychologically or physically.

Instead, courts would assess if they believed the perpetrator intended to harm the victim, or was recklessly indifferent to the harm they might have caused.

Work180, founded by Gemma Lloyd (left) and Valeria Ignatieva (right), has just raised $1.65 million from prior backers that include Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar and Kim Jackson's Skip Capital.

“Because, if we require the victim to prove actual psychological harm, it becomes a long, drawn-out case,” Ms Foster said. “They have to prove their victimhood.”

The easier legal test makes prosecutions more likely. In Britain, 73 per cent of men charged with coercive control in 2017 pleaded guilty, according to research cited by Women’s Safety NSW.

Even advocates acknowledge that the new law may not work. In 2004, Tasmania prohibited economic abuse and emotional abuse or intimidation.

The offences have rarely been prosecuted, in part because police haven’t been trained to use them, according to women’s safety advocates.

Aaron Patrick is the senior correspondent. He writes about politics and business. Connect with Aaron on Twitter. Email Aaron at apatrick@afr.com
Posted in Domestic Violence, Hot Topics, Violent Women, War on Men | Leave a comment

Brisbane mother avoids prison after stabbing teenage daughter during alcohol-fuelled fight

ABC News  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-21/mother-escapes-jail-wynnum-stabbing-teenage-daughter-court/12685192
Scales of Justice statue of a woman holding a set of scales and a sword while wearing a crown outside Brisbane's Supreme Court.
A Brisbane mother is told she is “very lucky” to escape jail time after repeatedly stabbing her teenage daughter in 2019.(ABC News: Neryssa Azlan)

A mother who told her teenage daughter to “die you dog” after repeatedly stabbing her during an alcohol-fuelled fight on Brisbane’s bayside last year has escaped a jail sentence.

The 39-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was originally charged with attempted murder after she used a kitchen knife to attack the 17-year-old in February 2019 in her Wynnum townhouse.

During what would have been the first day of a Supreme Court trial in Brisbane, the woman pleaded guilty to a downgraded domestic violence charge of acts intended to cause grievous bodily harm.

During sentencing submissions, the court heard on the morning of the stabbing the pair were heavily intoxicated after drinking a “ridiculous” amount of alcohol, when they began arguing.

The court was told the fight escalated when the teenager threw two mugs at her mother, hitting her once in the head and causing her to bleed heavily.

Blood smeared on the front door of a townhouse
Blood on the front door of the townhouse where the alleged stabbing happened on Sunday.(ABC News: Lexy Hamilton-Smith)

The court heard the woman continued to be physically assaulted by her daughter before she took a knife and threatened her.

During the attack, the teenager was stabbed five times in the face, neck and back and suffered a serious wound to her lung, causing it to collapse.

Woman ‘very lucky’ to avoid jail time

The court heard the woman had not tried to provide first aid to her daughter, but did call triple zero on two occasions, which was credited to saving her life.

Justice Glenn Martin said both women had acted “appallingly” but conceded the teenager was violent to her mother during the fight and that the woman’s intent to injure her daughter was “momentary”.

Police outside a modern townhouse complex
Police outside the Wynnum townhouse complex where a teen was stabbed.(ABC News: Lexy Hamilton-Smith)

After spending just under a year in custody, the woman was sentenced to five years in prison, wholly suspended.

Justice Martin said the woman had a “dysfunctional” family life and a “violent relationship” with her daughter but the court needed to take her actions “very seriously”.

“The use of a knife is extremely worrying,” he told the woman.

“You would be spending a long time in jail had that come to pass.”

Justice Martin warned the woman not to commit any further crimes and told her she must begin “self-policing” when she left court on Monday.

“If you stay out of trouble, you’ll stay out of jail,” he said.

Posted in Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Hot Topics, Violent Women | Leave a comment