The prevalence and detrimental impact of family violence has received much needed attention in the legal and public arena in recent years. Proposed changes to the Crimes Act 1900 (Crimes Act), will bring about much needed relief to victims of family and sexual violence, who want to reach out for help or support, without the concern that in doing so, others are then obliged to report the offence.
Under the Crimes Act, any person who knows or believes that a serious offence has been committed, is required to report that offence to the police. A failure to do so, without reasonable excuse, is an offence and a person found guilty of that offence, may face imprisonment.
Clearly, this is problematic in cases of family violence, where it is fairly common for victims to confide in family, friends or a counsellor, but usually on the strict condition that they maintain confidentiality and not report the crime. Of course, this places the friend or confidant in a very difficult situation, as they may be in breach of the law by simply respecting the victim's wishes.
However, under the proposed reforms to the Crimes Act, it will be considered a 'reasonable excuse' if the adult victim does not wish to report the offence to the police. The benefit of this is that it eliminates the risk of prosecution for family friends, counsellors and persons in support services who are trying to help the victims of sexual, domestic and/or family violence.
The reforms will assist in family law cases where it is very common for victims of family violence to hesitate coming forward, or reporting their partners, for various reasons, including the impact on children or cultural restraints.
The amendments are very welcome as hopefully, they will encourage victims to seek help or support without fear.
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