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New SA laws to crack down on domestic violence

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UPDATED: Forced marriage will be classified as abuse and the penalty for repeated breaches of intervention orders will be doubled under new laws announced today by the State Government.

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Other legislative changes announced this afternoon include the creation of a new offence for non-fatal strangulation, and enabling recordings from body-worn police cameras to be used as evidence in domestic-violence-related trials.

The expanded definition of abuse will also include barring a person from entering their home and taking invasive images of a person without their consent.

The tougher measures are part of a suite of legislative changes now being drafted by the State Government.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said the Government had been working with victims of domestic violence and support organisations to ensure South Australia had “the best mechanisms in place to deter, detect and punish perpetrators of domestic and family violence”.

She said she hoped to see the legislation drafted later this month.

Speaking on the proposed forced marriage legislation, Chapman told reporters at a press conference this afternoon that she was aware of two cases where young women in South Australia had been either sent overseas for forced marriage or had been identified since they’d been in Australia as being the victims of the practice.

“The way to address this is to treat it the same as any other domestic violence, to ensure that we protect those young women,” she said.

“We need to be clear that our job in South Australia is to protect these young women, whether they’ve come from another country and been underage and been in a forced marriage situation and then exploited or abused here, or whether they are sent overseas or put into a situation where there is a forced union.

“That is unacceptable to us and we believe it should be dealt with in the criminal law.”

Chapman said the new offence for non-fatal strangulation was necessary as in most cases, “the weapon of choice” for perpetrators of domestic violence was their hands.

“From last year’s statistics alone, (of) 23 murders in South Australia, 10 were in domestic violence circumstances, all of those in relation to matters which do not involve firearms,” she said.

Chapman described the doubling of penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence who repeatedly breach intervention orders as “sufficient”.

“We want the penalties to be very, very clear to offenders in relation to those breaches,” she said.

“Unless we can arm the judiciary with the capacity to be able do that then we can’t ask them to prosecute matters more severely if we’re not going to arm them with that capacity.”

She said there would be an increased likelihood of successfully prosecuting abusive partners by enabling recordings from body-worn police cameras to be used as evidence in domestic violence-related trials.

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