Not if, but when – Parliamentary Inquiry recommends NSW criminalise coercive control

Today the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control established in response to my Bill has handed down a unanimous report recommending that NSW introduces a stand-alone coercive control offence alongside existing domestic violence laws.

In its report released today, the Committee – comprising Greens MP Abigail Boyd as well as representatives from Labor, Liberal, Nationals and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation parties – have unanimously agreed to a number of ground-breaking recommendations, including:

  • NSW should criminalise coercive control, with commencement to occur after a ‘considerable prior program’ of education, training and consultation with police, stakeholders and the frontline sector.
  • A multi-agency taskforce should be established to oversee implementation of the offence.
  • In the nearer term, NSW should amend the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act to include a ‘clear and accessible definition of domestic abuse, which includes coercive and controlling behaviour’, as well as amend its laws on apprehended domestic violence orders to better reflect the realities of coercive control.

The Report is clear that criminalising coercive control is necessary to prevent domestic homicides, stating “[i]t is clear that coercive control is a factor and red flag for the horrific and preventable murder deaths of Australian women and children – some 20 murders in 2020 alone in NSW” and that “it is incumbent on government… to intervene, where behaviour exists that is not consensual and breaches human rights and is known to be a factor in potentially preventable domestic abuse related homicide deaths”.

However, the Committee acknowledged that changing the law to criminalise coercive control is not enough by itself to address the “pandemic” of domestic abuse, recognising that “[s]ystemic, whole of government reforms are needed to effectively implement changes to domestic abuse laws, and adequately support victims”.

Abigail Boyd MP, Greens NSW spokesperson for Domestic Violence & Abuse, said:

“Criminalising coercive control is first and foremost about saving lives.

“The evidence we heard during this inquiry was clear. Frontline workers, experts, victim-survivors – they all agreed that patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour are present in the most dangerous domestic abuse situations.

“However, it was also clear that decades of sexism within the police and judicial systems have left people cautious about relying on the justice system to save lives.

“The situation is complicated even further for First Nations peoples, with many having an understandable fear that more criminal laws will lead to increasing rates of over-incarceration and of children being taken from their families.

“So although we absolutely need to criminalise coercive control, and we can’t delay in moving that work forward, we also need to get it right. There needs to be whole-of-society reforms as a wrap-around to this legislative change, beginning immediately and not stopping until there are zero domestic homicides in our state. 

“Consultation and targeted reforms developed with First Nations and CALD communities, disability advocacy organisations, the LGBTQIA community and regional and rural communities will be critical, as will education and training for our police and judicial officers.

“The Greens Bill to criminalise coercive control is already before Parliament. Developed carefully with stakeholders, our Bill is the perfect starting point for this vital reform. If the NSW Government fails to act on this Report and does not present draft legislation by the end of the year, we’re ready to bring our Bill on for debate.”

Read the report in full here. 

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