STATUTES AMENDMENT (INTERVENTION ORDERS AND PENALTIES) BILL

 The member for Reynell introduced the Statutes Amendment (Intervention Orders and Penalties) Bill 2020 to the House of Assembly on 3 June last year to amend the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 and the Sentencing Act 2017.

Essentially, this bill is to increase penalties for a number of provisions. In addition, it inserts a definition of 'aggravated offence', being an offence committed in circumstances where the offender knew or suspected, or ought reasonably to have known or suspected, that a child would see, hear or otherwise be exposed to the offending conduct or to any effects of that conduct, or, in the course of committing the offence, the offender threatened to restrict a person's access to the person's child.

The bill also prescribes section 31(2aa)(b) of the IO act for the purpose of a serious repeat offender in the Sentencing Act 2017. This is a whole area of protection by legislation that is dear to my heart, and I know to the Premier's heart, given his appointment of the member for Elder, who has a prominent role and passionate advocacy in this area.

Part 5 of the IO act was amended by the Statutes Amendment (Domestic Violence) Act 2018. That act implemented a government election commitment to introduce measures to combat domestic and family violence, which included:

(a) Introducing section 31(2aa) into the IO act, which provides for tougher penalties for:

repeated breach of intervention order conditions; or

breaches that involve physical violence or the threat of physical violence.

(b) Changing the penalty for a breach of section 31(2) (offence of breaching a term of an intervention order) from two years' imprisonment to a $10,000 fine or two years' imprisonment.

Currently, a breach of an intervention order that relates to a failure to undertake an intervention program can be expiated. The bill proposes to remove the scope for an expiation notice to be issued. This will remove the flexibility to use the expiation notice process to deal with a particular type of breach that the parliament has deemed is minor and able to be dealt with by way of an expiation notice. The bill also proposes a sentence of imprisonment of up to two years for a breach of section 31(1), which seems a disproportionate response to what is a minor breach.

The bill proposes to increase penalties for a breach of an intervention order, other than a breach involving failure to undertake an intervention program, under section 31(2a) of the act. The maximum penalty of imprisonment would increase from two years to five years for a basic offence (minor indictable) or seven years for an aggravated offence (major indictable). The bill also proposes to increase the penalties for a breach of section 31(2aa) from four years' imprisonment or $20,000 to 10 years' imprisonment for a basic offence and 12 years for an aggravated offence. Arguably, this reform is not required, and the government's response to the 2018 bill took sufficient steps to introduce tough measures to respond to domestic violence.

The bill seeks to create an aggravated offence where children are impacted. This is really a very contemporary concern; it is one for which the government is already undertaking some work and research, so that we do look at the actual impact on children who are not even necessarily directly a victim of physical assault, for example, but who view someone who is vulnerable in that circumstance, a victim, or just hear the constant barrage of verbal abuse and/or demeaning comments—for example, to their mother. Of course that is a concern.

The effect of a breach of an intervention order that impacts children is already treated as a more serious breach than other breaches. The new definition of 'aggravated offence' may result in there being a disproportionate response to what could be characterised as a relatively minor breach. Preventing exposure of children to the effects of domestic violence is already one of the objects of the act and underpins the existing provisions and intervention order framework.

I thank the member for raising it, to the extent that it is a contemporary issue. We do need to start. I assure her that the government have already started working as to how we might deal with this—again not necessarily in a criminal sanction or envelope, but how we actually deal with it to protect children, recognise them in that situation and actually assist them, not just the direct victim, to get through.

The bill also describes the provision of the creation of an offence contravening a term of an intervention order, and similarly in the Sentencing Act. Under the serious repeat offender scheme, where a person has been convicted of at least three serious offences on separate occasions, they meet the definition of 'serious repeat offender'. When sentencing a serious repeat offender, a court must impose non-parole periods of at least four-fifths of the length of sentence and is not bound to ensure that the sentence is proportional to the offence.

I would urge the member to perhaps draw attention to those initiatives. They are in place already. In those circumstances, again, this is a situation where I entirely understand the merits sitting behind the mover's proposal relating to an area in our community that we do need to shine the light on. We intend to do that, and we are already activating that space. Repeating what is already in the law is not the way to do it, so I therefore indicate we will oppose the bill.

Debate adjourned on motion of Dr Harvey.