The Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas)
In 2004, the Tasmanian government launched the Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas) and a new approach to family violence – to focus on the safety, psychological wellbeing, and interests of people affected by family violence. This does not exclude offenders, as they are also affected by family violence, in that there is a breakdown in their family relationships because of their behaviour. This is why there is are several offender programs aimed at rehabilitation of the offender, and minimising exposure to the court system.
By the end of 2004, Legal Aid Tasmania had the first legal aid officer specialising in family violence cases. Legal Aid continues to provide non-means tested assistance for victims of family violence. Since then, there have been reviews and updates of the legislation and the Safe at Home Strategy to improve the system.
The Act contains a broad definition of family violence, including economic abuse, which handicaps a person from leaving a relationship by creating dependency or disposing of assets to prevent a person from having independence (s8). The definition of family violence is contained at section 7, and emotional abuse or intimidation at section 9. See ‘What is family violence’.
The Act contains the powers of police to enter property on the request of a person who apparently resides at that premises, or where there is a reasonable suspicion that family violence is being, has been or is likely to be committed. The Act also contains rights of arrest, search and seizure (s10).
There are also the regulations concerning Police Family Violence Orders contained in the Act.
Police Family Violence Orders
Police Family Violence Orders (PFVOs) can require an offender to:
- vacate any premises, whether or not that person has a legal or equitable interest in the premises;
- not enter any premises or only enter premises on certain conditions, whether or not that person has a legal or equitable interest in the premises;
- surrender any firearm or other weapon;
- refrain from harassing, threatening, verbally abusing or assaulting an affected person, affected child or other person named in the order;
- not approach, within a specified distance, an affected person, an affected child, other person named in the order or certain premises;
- refrain from contacting an affected person, affected child or other person named in the order directly or indirectly or otherwise than under specified conditions.
Increased training, and the creation of specialist response teams in Tasmania mean that these conditions can be enforced by the police, and that enforcement of PFVOs is a priority for the Tasmanian Police Service.
Family Violence Orders
Family Violence Orders (FVOs) are made by a court. The conditions that can be included in an FVO are at the courts discretion as to what they deem necessary or desirable to prevent the commission of family violence against any person named in the order (s16(2)). These conditions will often duplicate PFVOs. The wider powers of the court, as compared to the police, extend to altering residential tenancy agreements (s17), and the confiscation of firearms (s16(3)(b)).