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WA's new Persistent Family Violence FAQs

04/12/2020

What is persistent family violence?

In June this year, State Parliament passed the Family Violence Legislation Reform Act 2020 (the Act) which makes significant changes to the way the justice system will deal with family and domestic violence in Western Australia.

The Act introduced a new offence to the Criminal Code (WA) called ‘persistent family violence’.

Physical and psychological abuse against a partner often forms a longstanding pattern of ‘low-level’ criminal offending. If there have been multiple incidents over many years, it can be very difficult for a victim to recall every incidence of abuse and to provide specific dates and times to the police and courts.

The new offence recognises this by providing that victims of this type of abuse do not need to specify the dates or circumstances of the particular acts of family violence. This means that if a victim cannot remember the exact date on which an act of family violence occurred, or, for example, in what room of the house it occurred, the perpetrator can still be charged and prosecuted.

How is the persistent family violence offence charged?

The offence can be charged if an offender has committed three or more acts of family violence against a person with whom they are in a designated family relationship (i.e. married, de facto or other type of intimate partner) over a period of 10 years.

When did the offence of persistent family violence come into effect?

The persistent family violence offence came into effect on October 1 2020.

Can persistent family violence be charged if the abuse occurred before the offence commenced on 1 October 2020?

Yes. The offence captures acts of family violence that were committed before, on or after the offence commenced on 1 October 2020, provided the acts were unlawful at the time they were committed.

What are the penalties for persistent family violence?

The offence captures a wide range of conduct so the penalties reflect the seriousness of the abuse. If the offence is heard on indictment (i.e. in the District Court), the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 14 years. If heard summarily (i.e. in the Magistrates Court), the maximum penalty is three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $36,000.

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