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The State government has introduced a new domestic violence scheme to be trialled in NSW allowing individuals to check if their partner has a history of domestic violence.

The “Right to Ask” scheme will permit Individuals who may be at risk of domestic violence to ask the NSW Police about any previous violent or abusive behaviour of their current or previous partner.

“There are simply too many heartbreaking stories of women and men being seriously hurt or murdered in circumstances where the perpetrators had a history of prior domestic and violent criminal offences that they didn’t know about,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

Clare’s Law

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet highlighted that the new scheme is based on “Clare’s Law’ in the United Kingdom.

In the UK this Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme enables the police to disclose information to a victim or potential victim of domestic abuse about their partner’s or ex-partner’s previous abusive or violent offending.

In the UK police also release information about previous abusers to the public without being requested under certain circumstances.

Clare’s law came into effect in 2014 after Clare Wood was murdered by a man, she met on Facebook with a previous domestic violence history and assault convictions.

How the Proposed NSW Scheme Would Work

A person who may be at risk of suffering at the hands of domestic violence will be able to apply through an online portal or a hotline over the phone for information about their partner.

This information will be available in many languages to reduce cultural or language barriers.

Before any information is provided there will be NSW police approval as well as strict privacy controls in place to avoid people making “malicious” applications which could result in criminal penalties.

“We cannot continue to have women being killed in our community, so we need to have new approaches, new thinking and new policies.” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

The service would also facilitate a referral to domestic violence support services due to the complex nature of some domestic violence cases.

Why is This Scheme Needed?

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 2.2 million Australians have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or previous partner.

The AIHW also underlined that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous partner since the age of 15.

Natalie Ward the NSW Women’s Safety Minister said that this scheme would help prevent this from occurring and save lives.

“Our priority is to protect a woman’s right to be safe in a relationship.” Ms Ward said.

Due to the considerable shift in the dating world with more people utilising online dating apps and mingling with people out of their usual friend groups, the scheme has been commended as a step in the right direction of prevention and protection.

Police Minister and Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the dating landscape had “shifted considerably” since the previous trial, with more people accessing dating apps and dating outside their friendship circles.

The Right to ask scheme will be implemented with the help and contribution of domestic violence organisations and will be reviewed after 12 months of operation.

NSW Domestic Violence Legislation 

Under Section 11 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007, domestic violence offence” means an offence committed by a person against another person with whom the person who commits the offence has (or has had) a domestic relationship, being;

  1. a personal violence offence, or
  2. an offence (other than a personal violence offence) that arises from substantially the same circumstances as those from which a personal violence offence has arisen, or
  3. an offence (other than a personal violence offence) the commission of which is intended to coerce or control the person against whom it is committed or to cause that person to be intimidated or fearful (or both).

This scheme is also backed under this Act under Section 98D.

This section allows the disclosure of information without consent if it is believed on reasonable grounds that a person (the”threatened person”) is subject to a domestic violence threat.

An agency may disclose personal information and health information about the threatened person and any person that the agency reasonably believes is a cause of the threat (the “threatening person” ) to the central referral point or a local coordination point for contact purposes.

In this, the police may share information without the consent of a person if it is believed to prevent a threat to life or health.

By Alyssa Maschmedt.

Published on 21/06/2023

AUTHOR Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia

Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia are Leading Criminal Defence Lawyers, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Courts.

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