RLC in Hansard: Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Coercive and Controlling Behaviour) Bill 2020.

The contributions of RLC's Financial Abuse Service NSW staff were among those acknowledged in the Parliament of NSW during the second reading of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Coercive and Controlling Behaviour) Bill 2020.

Below is an extract of the second reading speech by Ms Abigail Boyd, MLC.

When people think of domestic abuse, they tend to think of physical violence, but domestic abuse is often much more complex than that. Many victims of domestic abuse live in a constant of fear, in relationships marked by dangerous patterns of controlling behaviour. This abuse is called coercive control. Women's Safety NSW, in its position paper on criminalising coercive control dated 11 September 2020, described coercive control as follows:

'Coercive control describes the use by one person of controlling and manipulative behaviours such as isolation, emotional manipulation, surveillance, psychological abuse and financial restriction against another person over a period of time for the purpose of establishing and maintaining control. In relationships characterised by coercive control, abusers use tactics of fear and intimidation to exert power over their victim, undermining their independence and self-worth.

While domestic and family violence has often been conceived of as an incident-based and primarily involving physical violence, coercive control can be just as detrimental, if not more so, to victims-survivors. Coercive control is a foundational element of domestic violence, and also a major predictor of severe physical violence and homicide.'

Coercive control is much broader than our existing New South Wales criminal offences of stalking and intimidation. Perpetrators of coercive control—also aptly named intimate terrorism—seek to control their victims with actual or threatened harm through a course of behaviour. Whether it is demanding that partners cut contact with their friends or family, restricting their access to money, monitoring their calls and messages or directing their day-to-day activities, these patterns of controlling behaviour are perpetrated to control another person, to remove their liberty and agency, with the intent or regardless of, the harm that it causes to that person.

Currently coercive control is not a separate offence or integrated into existing domestic violence offences in any State or Territory of Australia. However, if the bill passes, we will not be the first jurisdiction in the world to recognise and criminalise coercive control as domestic abuse.

I have the privilege of having two of those many individuals who have helped shape the bill here today in the Chamber—Hayley Foster, the CEO of Women's Safety NSW, and Sally Stevenson, the general manager of Illawarra Women's Health Centre. Thank you so much for the work that you do, for your contributions to the bill, to the broader campaign and for all of the time and energy you have given my team and I. I am so grateful to have you here with us today. There are countless more who have given so much of themselves in this process.

I give special thanks to the contributions from Delia Donovan and Renata Field at Domestic Violence NSW, Liz Snell at Women's Legal Service NSW, Hannah Robinson and Pat O'Callaghan at the Western NSW Community Legal Centre, Gayatri Nair and Laura Bianchi at Redfern Legal Centre, Kristina Vesk of the Cat Protection Society of NSW, Mardi Wilson at Griffith University and Paul McGorrery at Deakin University.

I now turn to the specific provisions of the bill.

The Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Coercive and Controlling Behaviour Bill) establishes a new offence of abusive control and provides for certain procedural and other protections in relation to that offence. The bill is largely modelled on the equivalent provisions introduced in Scotland in 2018. New section 14A sets out the new offence of abusive control, punishable with 10 years prison, or two years if dealt with summarily and/or 50 penalty units. These penalties are designed to reflect the severity of coercive control, recognising on the one hand the lifelong impact that coercive control can have on victims-survivors—which is often as harmful and debilitating as physical violence offences—while on the other hand, also ensuring access to justice through the local courts and acknowledging that high penalties can reduce the rates at which the offence will be prosecuted.

To establish the offence of abusive control, evidence of a course of behaviour will be required. A "course of behaviour" refers to behaviour occurring on two or more occasions.

New section 14A (9) clarifies that "behaviour" includes—but is not limited to—saying or otherwise communicating something, as well as doing something, omitting to do something or asking or otherwise causing a person to do something.

New section 14A (5) provides that the offence can be committed by a course of behaviour engaged wholly or partly in New South Wales or by or against a person ordinarily resident in New South Wales. Although the bill will not have retroactive effect, new section 14A (8) of the bill will allow instances of behaviour occurring prior to implementation of the bill's provisions to be considered within a course of behaviour where at least one instance of that behaviour occurs after implementation.

Read more (NSW Legislative Council Hansard, 18 November 2020)