RLC Submission: Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022

RLC has made a submission in response to the NSW Government’s draft legislation criminalising coercive control in intimate partner relationships.

RLC recommends the NSW Government adopt a phased approach to criminalising coercive control, starting first with a definition of domestic abuse, which includes coercive and controlling behaviour, in the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act before introducing a standalone criminal offence in the Crimes Act.

RLC’s Financial Abuse Service NSW regularly works with victim survivors of coercive control, in particular financial abuse, and shares the sector’s concerns that the draft Bill could lead to victim survivors being misidentified as the primary perpetrator of family violence.

RLC supports recognising and defining coercive control as a form of domestic and family violence, but recommends delaying criminalisation until there has been a significant investment in systems and cultural reform, education, training, and funding of frontline services to ensure there is a deeper understanding of coercive control within society.

RLC’s submission highlights that the power imbalance between the perpetrator and the victim survivor is a core element of coercive control in domestic relationships, and recommends that this be included in the definition of coercive control.

Ultimately, while the submission applauds the commitment to addressing coercive control in NSW, the overall recommendation is to take the time to ensure that new laws are drafted and implemented in such a way to promote the safety and welfare of victim survivors, and do not lead to unintended outcomes.

The Economic Abuse Reference Group NSW, which is coordinated by RLC’s Financial Abuse Service, also made a submission calling for improved definitions of economic and financial abuse in the legislation, and highlighting that criminalising coercive control will have broader impacts that require consideration, such as how the offence will interact with the family law system, migration law and social security.

Download RLC's submission below

See the submissions made by a range of community legal centres and social services here