Court and Queensland Parliament taking tough stance against Domestic Violence

Domestic violence has been at the forefront of the Australian media in recent months.

Recently amongst the stories making headlines, a South Australian Judge, His Honour Judge Muscat, has sentenced domestic violence perpetrator, Mr Andrew Ritter, to over six years jail with a non-parole period of five years for two assaults against his ex-partner who he had been in a relationship with for about two years. Mr Ritter pleaded guilty on both counts.

His Honour heard that Mr Ritter punched, slapped and spat on his ex-partner who feared reporting this to the police because of Mr Ritter’s threats to hurt her and her children. Mr Ritter accused his ex-partner of having affairs behind his back and had taken control of her finances to buy himself alcohol and drugs. Mr Ritter’s ex-partner would flee the violence by hiding in a local soccer ground, playground or cemetery where she sometimes slept out of fear of returning home.

Whilst sentencing Mr Ritter, His Honour remarked that Mr Ritter is “morally weak for beating her up so regularly and treating her badly…, weak for not taking control of [his] drug and alcohol problem… [and] weak for not controlling [his] aggression.” His Honour said that the case was the worst he had seen with respect to domestic violence, and that no man was ever justified in any way or under any circumstance to physically or emotionally abuse their girlfriends or domestic partners. His Honour said that society rightly looks to the courts to protect women from men such as Mr Ritter, and that “no longer will society simply stand in silence whilst men continue to beat and abuse their girlfriends, partners and wives. Strong deterrent sentences are necessary to demonstrate to perpetrators of violence against women that society, through its courts, will not tolerate such behaviour“.

The Queensland Parliament is also responding with Queensland Attorney-General Ms Yvette D’Ath recently introducing a bill to amend domestic violence laws to address growing concerns. Ms D’Ath commented on the bill stating that it “provides a strong framework from which to effect real change and prevent future domestic and family violence deaths…”, and that “despite efforts to reduce domestic and family violence, on average two women die in Australia each week at the hands of a violent partner, husband or father“. The bill had the bipartisan support of the Queensland Parliament.

The Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Amendment Act took effect on 1 December 2015 and has increased the maximum penalty for contraventions of a domestic violence orders from two years to three years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for respondent’s who have been previously convicted of a domestic violence offence has increased from 3 years to 5 years imprisonment.

The Bill also amends the Queensland Evidence Act such that persons against whom domestic violence has been or is alleged to have been committed may be treated as a special witness when giving evidence. This gives the court discretion to exclude the person charged or the other party from the room whilst the court is sitting or be obscured from the view of the special witness while the special witness is giving evidence. This applies to both domestic violence and criminal proceedings.

It is hoped by all that the recent changes to our legislation will see a decrease in the prevalence of domestic violence in Queensland and the rest of the nation.

Should you find yourself in need of a lawyer on the Gold Coast to assist with domestic violence and/or family law matters please contact our experienced team at McLaughlins Lawyers today on (07) 5591 5099.

Author: Elise Foote

Partner: Sophie Pearson

Date: 08/12/2015