The proposed coercive control domestic violence laws prescribe up to seven years imprisonment.
The coercive control laws are focused at addressing offenders in domestic relationships who mentally/psychologically abuse their partner.
The proposed Bill is called the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Coercive Control-Preethi’s Law) Bill 2020 (NSW).
Effectively, when passed, the Bill will attract up to 7 years imprisonment to anyone who engages in coercive control in a domestic relationship.
Coercive control includes non-violent types of psychological harm and further includes behaviour that is a pattern of conduct involving threats, intimidation and humiliation or assault.
Isolating your partner from friends and/or family members can also constitute a form of coercive control.
Restricting your partner’s access to money (financial control) or engaging in degrading behaviour can equally amount to coercive control warranting criminal prosecution and penalties.
Other types of coercive control may include sexual abuse and verbal abuse depriving the victim of independence.
The Bill was been proposed in honour of victim Preethi Reddy who was killed by an ex-partner (hence Preethi’s law).
The Bill recognises that abusive behaviour such as this is a significant warning sign for intimate partner homicides in Australia.
The Attorney-General Mark Speakman said, that “Coercive control is complex, is insidious and causes untold harm for its victims”. The absence of this law has been a missing piece towards protecting the community in domestic relationships.
Speakman also said, “At the moment, criminal law focuses on individual episodes of violence rather than a course of conduct”.
Misusing power in a relationship to this extent that it forms into coercive control warranting criminal punishment and protection is currently not considered a crime in Australia except to a limited extent in Tasmania through their emotional abuse criminal reforms. Queensland and South Australia have also introduced similar Bills to address the same concerns.
The proposed laws can capture conduct that controls what someone wears or who they visit or talk to, including tracking someone’s location.
Others have questioned the new laws raising legitimate concerns that it can prove difficult in proving a pattern of conduct or that it can result in baseless claims.
The existing Bill defines “coercive control” as conduct that has, or is reasonably likely to have, one or more of the following effects:
- Frightening, humiliating, degrading, or punishing a person,
- Depriving a person, or restricting a person’s access to support services. This includes doctors or lawyers,
- Depriving a person of, or restricting a person’s freedom of action,
- Controlling, regulating, or monitoring a person’s day-to-day activities,
- Isolating a person from friends, relatives, or other support sources,
- Making a person dependent on, or subordinate to, a person.