On 30 May 2017 a number of amendments were made to the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012.
While the legislation has had many amendments in the last few years the new changes are significant in both the way that domestic violence is viewed and the long term effects of Orders that may be made.
Many of the amendments have come about directly from the “Not Now, Not Ever” report which the Premier commissioned and received in February 2015. This report recommended 140 changes to the way domestic violence was dealt with in Queensland.
While in other states and territories there are some specialised Domestic Violence Courts, this was not available in Queensland (although there is now one Domestic Violence Court in Southport which is commencing). The benefit to these Courts is that they specialise and deal with all domestic violence matters. This is a complex and specified area, as it has matters which involve anger, violence, substance abuse, child care and protection, family law, psychological and emotional abuse, financial abuse and the relationship within specified family types. Specialised judicial officers would certainly assist the process for both the Aggrieved and Respondents.
As of 30 May 2017 the changes include:
- A change from the “usual” time for a domestic violence order to be in place. While previously the “usual Order” occurred for two years this is now five years unless the Court decides it should be a lesser time. Consent to an Order can still be provided, and this may be for a lesser time Order where appropriate.
The specific impacts of the changes is still unknown. It is expected that given the enlarged time limits for the length of the “usual” Order that this will have a big impact on parties with weapons licenses (it may mean no weapons or ability to have a license for a period of up to 10 years from the time the Order is made).
- The Court must also consider any Orders that need to be made to protect the Aggrieved in an application, outside the usual form of domestic violence orders. This means that more Orders are available for inclusion, if necessary to protect a person or their children or associates.
- Where there are cross applications for domestic violence orders, they must be heard together unless there is a reason accepted by the court, as to why that is not required. There is now a positive obligation on both parties to advise the Court as to the existence of cross applications.
It is common for parties to domestic violence matters to each make an application against each other, and previously these could be heard in separate Courts. Due to the obligation for both parties to advise the Court of any cross applications that now exists, if it comes to light there are separate cross applications, the Court must consider transferring one of the matters so the two can be heard together.
- The Court has always had a concern as to ensuring that competing Orders from different Courts don’t clash. As of 30 May 2017, the Magistrates Court is now required to consider family law Orders (for example) to determine whether that Order needs to be suspended or varied to ensure that the Domestic Violence Order adequately protects the Aggrieved and associates. This seems to strengthen the Magistrates’ ability under Domestic Violence legislation to amend family law orders.
Family law is another complex area of law, and Magistrates have not, in recent years, been as involved in family law matters as they had previously due to the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court being the Courts of primary jurisdiction for such matters. This is an area that we may have to wait and see as to how the Magistrates Courts cope with this amendment. We expect it will certainly depend on the case, and may require affidavit material to specifically cover this part.
- There are also now harsher penalties for parties that breach a Police Protection notice and release conditions. These are now in line with penalties already part of the Domestic Violence Legislation, and are as much as 3 years imprisonment dependent on the severity of the breach.
Interesting times are ahead! It will be interesting to see how the Magistrates Courts cope with the changes, and how this impacts on Family Law generally.
We certainly recommend both aggrieved parties, and those responding to domestic violence applications seek independent legal advice at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that they are knowledgeable about this legislation, and Orders that can be made, can affect them into the future of both their domestic violence matter, and any related family law matters.