Coercive control, bail tweaks begin protecting women

NSW is safer for women after becoming the first Australian jurisdiction to criminalise coercive control as a standalone offence, a family violence expert says.

Legislation criminalising repeated patterns of physical or non-physical abuse used to hurt, scare, intimidate, threaten or control someone passed NSW parliament in 2022, and came into effect on Monday.

Its introduction was delayed to allow time to educate police, the judiciary and the public, with perpetrators facing jail for up to seven years if found guilty.

Police on patrol in Cronulla
Police are trained to recognise abuse used to hurt, scare, intimidate, threaten or control someone. (Simon Bullard/AAP PHOTOS)

Women's Community Shelters chief executive Annabelle Daniel said NSW residents should be extremely proud to live in a state taking serious action on coercive control.

"With this reform, we can now tell women seeking support at our services that the patterns of abuse that they've experienced are criminal," she said.

"This legislation will improve the lives of women and children who may never seek to use the legal system … the police and court system personnel are trained to identify patterns of abuse, and we'll be less likely to misidentify the perpetrator of abuse when they attend to incidents."

Attorney-General Michael Daley said abuse against intimate partners would not be tolerated.

"We believe in the presumption of innocence, but it is also important to recognise the right of victim survivors to be safe from harassment, intimidation or violence," he said.

Coercive control was a precursor to 97 per cent of intimate partner domestic violence homicides in NSW between 2000 and 2018.

"But it's also really important to note coercive control deserves to be criminalised because it in itself is intimate partner terrorism, whether or not it leads to domestic homicide," Ms Daniel said.

Tougher bail laws mean people charged with serious domestic violence offences, with a maximum imprisonment of 14 years or more, must now demonstrate why they should not remain in custody.

These include sexual assault, kidnapping, and choking to render someone unconscious with intent to commit another indictable offence in intimate partner relationships.

Other changes coming into play on Monday are aimed at revitalising Sydney's nightlife economy and keeping people safer on the roads.

Sound-proofing grants and regulations will protect music venues from serial complainants, while cameras that have captured drivers using their phones on the road will also check they are wearing a seatbelt.

The noise and licensing reforms include order of occupancy which will prevent new residents restricting already-established venues.

The number of people needed for a disturbance complaint will increase from three to five, and must not be from the same household or business.

Temporary pandemic allowances for small bars to sell take-away alcohol during the pandemic will become permanent.

Soundproofing and live performance grants will provide funds to venues to improve sound management, as well as for equipment, programming and marketing costs.

Music and Night-Time Economy Minister John Graham said the new rules aimed to help restore the city's ailing nightlife.

new rules aimed to help restore the city's ailing nightlife.
The relaxation of rules around entertainment are designed to help restore Sydney's ailing nightlife. (Jason O'BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS)

"We are rebuilding Sydney's night-time economy, venue by venue, neighbourhood by neighbourhood," he said.

Mobile phone detection cameras will also begin enforcing seatbelt fines from Monday.

Drivers or passengers caught by camera not wearing their seatbelt will be hit with fines of up to $410 and three demerit points.

Mr Graham, also the state's roads minister, says the crackdown will help get the message to non-complying drivers.

"World-first mobile phone detection cameras have had great success in changing that behaviour and we expect seatbelt cameras to do the same," he said.

Between 2019 and 2023, 150 people in NSW died while not wearing a seatbelt.

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