Senate Passes Amendments to The Domestic Violence Act


Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Senator A.J. Nicholson has said that amendments to the Domestic Violence Amendment Act, which was passed in the Senate on Friday, October 15, contained features, which would expand and in some instances, clarify the application of the Domestic Violence Act of 1995.
The Bill provides for, among other things the widening of the categories of persons who may apply for a protection order, and maintenance orders to be made in conjunction with protection and occupation orders.
It also makes provision for applications for protection orders to be made by a Constable or a person who is given leave to apply by the Court, on behalf of a spouse, a member of the respondent’s household or a person who is in a visiting relationship with the respondent, upon the written consent of that person.
Tabling the Bill, Senator Nicholson pointed out that as it related to extending the coverage of the Act, the Principal Act (the 1995 Domestic Violence Act), was deficient in two regards. “The first is a visiting relationship. and secondly, the denial of relief to persons who share a common household, but do not fall within the stipulated relationships under the [1995] Act. That is, a child, a spouse, a parent or dependent, of the respondent,” he said.
He explained that in the case of a visiting relationship, the parties did not live together, but spent a lot of time with each other, and may even share a child or children. A number of women for example, in visiting relationships, he noted, were victims of domestic violence, but were unable to access the remedies provided under the 1995 Act.
“The proposed amendments therefore, extend the category of applicants that are covered under the Act to include the person who is in a visiting relationship with the respondent,” Mr. Nicholson declared.
He also pointed out that the 1995 Act afforded protection to persons who were related to the respondent by reason of blood or marriage, (legal or de facto), or dependency. Consequently, he said, persons who shared a common household, but did not fall within the stipulated relationships and were not covered. These persons he pointed out, may include siblings who lived together, or older persons living with, but not dependent on, a younger relative.
Minister Nicholson said it was also critical to amend the Act, to include in the category of those eligible for protection, those who habitually resided in the household. Additionally, he told the Senate that a provision was being introduced to identify damage to property as a specific act of domestic violence.
Speaking to the amendment, which allowed for third party applications, he said, “The [1995] Act provides for an application by a spouse or parent, in respect of whom the alleged conduct has been or is likely to be engaged in, by the respondent,” adding, “however, the Act does not permit third party intervention, on behalf of a spouse or parent”. The amendments therefore, seek to remedy the situation by permitting an interested third party to initiate proceedings on behalf of a victim of domestic violence, with the leave of the court.
This is particularly important for women suffering from “battered women’s syndrome”, the Justice Minister noted.
Minister Nicholson then turned to the issue of the granting of concurrent maintenance orders – another salient feature in the 1995 Act.
He told his colleagues that experience had shown that after an order was made against a male spouse under the Domestic Violence Act, that spouse often withheld any further contribution towards the maintenance of his child or wife. “We can’t tolerate that,” Mr. Nicholson stated.

JIS Social