New laws passed by the Western Australia government will better protect family violence victims following the case of Aboriginal woman Jody Gore, who was jailed for life for the murder of her former partner who had been physically abusing Ms Gore for years.
The McGowan government said their Family Violence Legislation Reform Bill 2019 is the most comprehensive family violence law reform package the state has ever seen.
“The rates of family and domestic violence in the community are unacceptably high and the Government is determined to send a very clear message - violence is never OK,” Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk said in a statement.
“I truly believe that these changes will save lives,” she said.
One of the amendments includes ensuring people who have acted to defend themselves from family violence are protected from convictions like homicide under the defence of self-defence.
Last September Ms Gore was released from prison under ‘mercy’ laws and went back up to her home in the Kimberley.
She told NITV News in March that when she learnt of the news of her early release, she felt as though her prayers had been answered.
I came back from my dialysis and the officer said, ‘Jody you’ve gotta ring your lawyer up,'" she said.
"I rang him up and he said, ‘did you hear the good news’ and I said, ‘no’ and he said, ‘oh you’re gonna get released today or tomorrow’ and he said to keep it quiet until it was announced.
"I was like 'wow', I was excited. I said, ‘thank you God for answering my prayers.'"
Gore had been convicted of murder in 2016, after stabbing her former partner at a party in Kununurra following years of abuse.
The new laws will also will enable courts to declare a person a "serial family violence offender", making it easier for both courts and police to minimise the risks of reoffending.
The government says one of the key changes is a new specific criminal offence for suffocation and strangulation. Research has found that a female victim of strangulation is seven times more likely to be the victim of homicide, compared to other family violence victims.
Other changes include:
- new aggravated penalties for offences which commonly occur in circumstances of family violence;
- introduction of jury directions to counter stereotypes, myths and misconceptions about family and domestic violence;
- making it easier for evidence of family and domestic violence to be introduced in criminal trials;
- requirement for police to record every family violence incident;
- exempting family violence victims from road traffic obligations that require them to identify the perpetrator if doing so presents a risk to their safety; and
- a range of amendments to the Restraining Orders Act 1997 and Bail Act 1982 to enhance victim safety and make it easier for victims to obtain protection from violence.