Staying safe laws have recently been passed in Queensland, coming as a huge relief to domestic violence campaigners. We don’t always know someone as well as we think we do. Domestic violence can be happening in the home next door, in your best friend’s house or it could be a part of your partner’s history you haven’t discovered yet. Staying safe should be a priority for our families – not an optional extra. That’s why staying safe laws are so important.
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Samantha Handley would be relieved at the new staying safe laws that were passed recently in Queensland State Parliament – relieved that finally there is change that will help more women like her. These changes are several months after NSW parliament introduced a domestic violence disclosure scheme, which would have been very helpful to Samantha five years ago when she met her ex.
When she met her ex-partner she thought he was an okay bloke. There were a couple of warning signs that others were seeing but she didn’t want to. She believed she was in a loving relationship, before his control over her slowly built up and she realised he had become abusive. She wasn’t sure what to do, but knew she had to do something, so she started doing her own research because she didn’t know of any other way to find out whether he had a criminal history. What her persistence found made her sick.
A news article about Darren James Brown from Wagga Wagga reported that he had been fined for assaulting his then de facto partner and her 15-month-old daughter. He was later jailed for 12 months after pleading guilty to repeatedly bashing a girl when she was 18 months old, causing multiple bruising. The paediatrician who had examined the baby said she had major bruising all over her body, with only the area that was covered by a nappy spared. “I have no doubt this bruising is the result of at least 14 blows to the face and trunk,” he said. The article headline was “Baby Basher Jailed”.
Samantha believes if she had access to the information she knows now about Darren’s past, it would have changed everything. She was with him for three years. Samantha says Brown made her feel bad about herself and became emotionally abusive. Behind closed doors he was controlling her and coercing her into things that were so shameful she felt she could never go to the police or anyone who she was close to about it. Because she didn’t have the bruises that proved domestic violence, she felt like she couldn’t ask for help.
New Domestic Violence Staying Safe Laws
Access to information about violent offenders just got a little bit easier in Queensland. Government and community groups can share information about violent offenders under new staying safe laws just passed in State Parliament. The legislation also provides for the automatic mutual recognition of DVOs made in other Australian jurisdictions through the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme (NDVOS). Earlier in the year NSW began the scheme where people at risk can find out if their partner has a history of violent criminal offences. People who live in those areas where the scheme was rolled out will able to apply to police to disclose if their partner has been convicted of breaches of crimes like assault, murder and manslaughter, or if they have previously breached apprehended domestic violence orders.
Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Shannon Fentiman said the new staying safe laws would also require magistrates to consider exercising their power to modify existing family court orders to provide better protection for vulnerable children. “We hear from victims that the inconsistencies in protection orders in the Magistrates Court and family law orders is one of the key reasons victims won’t leave a violent situation,” she said. “These groundbreaking new laws will deliver more tailored support to keep victims of violence safe, and will strengthen both the police and justice response to domestic and family violence in Queensland.”
Police have now had the power to issue on-the-spot Police Protection Notices (PPN) to help women and children fleeing violence for a number of years. The new staying safe laws now mean that a breach of a PPN will bring about a penalty which matches that of breaching a DVO – a maximum 7 year jail sentence. Another change is that domestic violence orders will now apply for a minimum of years. Calling the police and getting them involved in protecting you from a domestic violence situation is an option. It provides an aggrieved person with immediate protection, unlike a domestic violence order which needs to be issued by a court.
Applying for a Domestic Violence Protection Order
Laws are changing to help protect those that are most vulnerable and to respond with increasing vigor against perpetrators of family violence. If you think that you need a protection order then you can apply for one at any Magistrates Court in Queensland. There is no filing fee and the forms are available online or at the registry of your local Magistrates Court. You can apply for it yourself or a police officer may apply for you, otherwise someone authorised by you can also apply for a protection order on your behalf.
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The DVO can stop someone:
- approaching you at your home or workplace
- staying in a home you used to share together
- approaching you, your relatives or your friends, if named in the order, within a certain distance, such as 100 metres
- going to a child’s school or day care centre.
Our family lawyers are experienced in all aspects of family law, including domestic violence. Please contact us today for a free, 10-minute phone consultation. If you need urgent help, please contact the police on 000.