Coercive control to become crime in NSW

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People who repeatedly subject their partner to physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse could face seven years jail under proposed NSW coercive control laws.

A draft of the landmark bill has been released by Attorney-General Mark Speakman for public comment, ahead of its introduction to parliament.

Last year the government committed to outlawing the historically overlooked form of intimate abuse known as coercive control as part of its response to a parliamentary inquiry.

Coercive control involves patterns of behaviour which deny victims autonomy and independence.

Mr Speakman says the legislation would provide further protections for victims and survivors of domestic and family violence.

"Coercive control is complex, is insidious and causes untold harm for its victims," he said on Wednesday.

"Creating a stand-alone offence will strengthen our criminal justice system's responses to abuse.

"But consultation is critical to ensure these reforms only capture very serious incidences of abuse, avoid overreach and do not unintentionally endanger those in our community we are seeking to help."

The new law will create an offence to carry out repeated abusive behaviours to a current or former intimate partner and carry a sentence of up to seven years in jail.

Women's Safety Minister Natalie Ward says the bill represents "landmark reforms that recognise that domestic abuse isn't just about physical violence".

"It can and very often does include physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse to hurt and control someone," she said.

"These reforms are crucial to ensuring we recognise in law a pattern of behaviour which is identified as a precursor to domestic violence deaths."

Coercive control is a significant 'red flag' for intimate partner homicide, with virtually all domestic murders characterised by the abuser's use of coercive and controlling behaviours toward the victim.

Full Stop Australia CEO Hayley Foster called the reform a landmark decision for NSW, which could serve as a blueprint for other states and territories.

"Finally, the law will catch up to our current understanding of domestic and family violence," Ms Foster said.

"As a result of these reforms women and children in particular will be much safer."

She said some 99 per cent of domestic homicides had been preceded by coercive control, as shown in the Domestic Violence Death Review by the NSW Coroner's Court.

"This reform will also send a clear message that abusive behaviours will not be tolerated."

Interim CEO of Domestic Violence NSW Elise Phillips backs the legislation, but is concerned the six-week consultation period is not long enough.

"The criminalisation of coercive control has the potential to improve the safety of people experiencing domestic and family violence in NSW but there must be sufficient consultation, training for police and courts and resourcing for the specialist DFV sector," Ms Phillips said.

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