Domestic violence laws in WA go too far

Domestic violence laws in WA go too far, by Augusto Zimmermann.

The West Australian parliament is currently introducing new laws regarding domestic violence which pose an insidious threat to fundamental rights of citizens in this state. Current laws ensure that if a woman alleges violence has occurred she will usually be issued with a restraining order without any evidence to support that claim. These proposed new laws take this even further. If the new legislation passes through parliament it will be enough for a woman to simply claim she fears violence may occur in order to be issued with a restraining order.

Such restraining orders can be used to evict a man from his home, to deny contact with his children. These orders lack the proper application of due process and they are often granted on a ‘without admissions’ basis which means no evidence needs to be produced. If these so-called “reforms” become law they will inevitably lead to the further undermining of basic rights to natural justice, property rights and parental rights in this state.

The WA government is taking this action despite having received explicit advice against it from the WA Law Reform Commission …

[The Commission noted that the proposals] were likely to exacerbate the already existing problem of overuse and abuse of violence restraining orders which are known to be used for tactical purposes in family law litigation. …

The legislation … “will be moving away from the need for establishing evidence of an act of abuse as is currently the case, towards one of behaviour to intimate, coerce and control.” So under the new laws it will not even be necessary to demonstrate domestic violence has occurred. Action can now be taken before that point, simply on the basis that someone fears that the alleged control or intimidation could escalate into violence. That’s an extraordinary shift, undermining one of the foundations of the rule of law, namely that one is innocent until proven guilty.