Notes on Criminal Law - Domestic Violence

Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia), August 26, 2015 | Go to article overview

Notes on Criminal Law - Domestic Violence


Byline: iLaw with Peter Hunter

IN MY 20-year experience as a criminal lawyer, I have seen many people charged with domestic violence offences have been able to frustrate the charge by what is known as the "Bourke Defence".

This is where, for reasons best known to the defendant, the female victim fails to attend court.

Consequently the charge is withdrawn or dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Reforms to domestic violence law came into effect in New South Wales on June 1 and are the first of this type of reform to be introduced in Australia. Up to this point police have had great difficulty obtaining convictions due to lack of evidence because people making complaints often don't come to court due to intimidation by perpetrators of domestic violence offences.

Police are understandably frustrated when they go to the trouble of taking statements and commencing proceedings only to have these matters dismissed or withdrawn in court due to lack of evidence.

The idea of these reforms is to allow police to obtain statements from victims at the scene of the domestic violence incident or as soon as practicable afterwards.

Police have had kits containing video and still cameras for a number of years, but these have had limited use due to the law making it difficult for police to be able to use previously recorded evidence in court. …

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