A re-elected NSW Liberal and Nationals Government will take a tougher stance on domestic violence by reviewing all sentences for domestic violence related offences and by making sweeping changes to the handling of cases within the judicial system.
Under this proposal, the government will commission a full-scale review of all domestic violence related sentences. It will also undertake a feasibility study to establish a dedicated Domestic and Family Violence Court, fund a specialist Domestic and Family Violence List across three local courts and fund a surge of an additional five magistrates to ensure cases are heard earlier.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said the government was taking a zero-tolerance stance to domestic violence by holding perpetrators to the highest account.
“We are cracking down on this abhorrent behaviour and sending a clear message to perpetrators that domestic violence will not be tolerated in our state,” Mr Perrottet said.
“This is about putting the safety of our people first, ensuring victim-survivors can get justice and that perpetrators are held to the highest account.
“As well as reviewing sentences, we are also taking the first steps towards establishing a standalone court for domestic violence cases and will be fast tracking domestic violence cases to ensure no one falls through the cracks of our legal system.”
Attorney General Mark Speakman said the NSW Government would fund a temporary surge of 5 additional Local Court magistrates to help clear the case backlog.
“This funding will temporarily raise the Local Court bench to a record 154 magistrates to address the backlog of defended matters left following major interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr Speakman said.
“With around 37% of pending Local Court criminal hearings domestic violence related, this will significantly improve time to justice for some of the State’s most vulnerable people.”
Minister for Women’s Safety and the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Natalie Ward said these reforms complement existing measures, including new and upgraded safe rooms and remote witness rooms in metropolitan and regional courts delivered by the NSW Government.
“Victim-survivors of domestic violence should not fall away from the journey of seeking justice because the process is too hard, drawn-out and complex,” Mrs Ward said.
“We know COVID-19 created a significant backlog in domestic violence cases being heard by the Local Court, with some victims waiting 9 months or longer to have their case heard.
“This is why we will put additional resources into fast tracking domestic violence cases so victim-survivors are not lost in the legal system.
“The NSW Liberal and National Government will also explore the establishment of a specialist domestic violence court to simplify the judicial process and ensure that we do everything possible to limit the heavy emotional toll these cases can take on victims.”
This builds on the NSW Liberal and National Government’s investment of more than $2 billion in 2022-2023 to increase access to justice and further strengthen courts and frontline services.
This review will commence as soon as possible if the NSW Liberal and Nationals are re-elected, with the Sentencing Council to be instructed to conduct the review.