Reforms to Queensland’s domestic violence legislation were passed on 11 October 2016 and are expected to come into effect shortly. The Domestic and Family Violence Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 is part of a series of reforms arising from the 2015 report released by the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland. These reforms are designed to provide victims of domestic violence with earlier and more effective protection and to hold perpetrators of domestic violence more accountable.

Improved protection for victims is accommodated by the reforms which require police to investigate an allegation of domestic violence if police reasonably believe that an act of domestic violence has been committed and the victim requires protection. Further, the reforms allow for wider and more flexible use of Police Protection Notices (PPN’s) which allow police to take immediate action, such as temporarily removing the perpetrator from the family home, preventing the perpetrator from returning to the home, or prohibiting the perpetrator from contacting the victim until the matter can be brought before the court for determination.

Courts are now required to consider whether a temporary or final order should impose additional more specific conditions, as well as the standard conditions to ensure that each order is tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. The reforms have removed a reference to the courts considering whether an imposed condition is in the interests of a respondent prior to making the order to ensure the paramount consideration remains the safety of the victim.

The court is also required to consider how an order made pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 will be effected by the conditions imposed by the protection order and, to the extent of any inconsistency, the court must consider whether it will exercise its power to make orders pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 in order to resolve that inconsistency. Previously, a court’s consideration of this issue was discretionary.

The reforms focus on providing ongoing protection for victims of domestic violence by requiring courts to make the duration of a protection order a minimum of five years unless the court is satisfied that a lesser time period is appropriate.

Additional reforms which focus on the protection of the victim include:

  • A framework that enables comprehensive information sharing between government departments to ensure the ongoing protection of the community; and
  • Automatic recognition of protection orders across Australia through the national domestic violence scheme.

In response to community expectations that perpetrators of domestic violence should be held more accountable for domestic violence, the reforms provide for:

  • increased penalties for breaching PPN’s and release conditions; and
  • courts to consider whether a perpetrator has complied with a previous police protection notice or protection order before amending a current protection order.