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Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) (Section 31 Offences) Amendment Bill

5 March 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:48): I rise to speak on the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) (Section 31 Offences) Amendment Bill. I understand the bill comes after an error was discovered relating to charges under section 31 of the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009. The parliament has been advised that, of the 771 files that contained this error, none of them were charged with the higher offence.

What is interesting about this scenario is that the error began in 2011 after the commencement of the act and then in 2017 SAPOL addressed the issue; however, a change in the system in 2018 meant that the error continued to occur. This is concerning and we need to ensure that this does not happen again in relation to other criminal matters. Indeed, I can imagine this would be very distressing for the victims who have seen a sentencing process and understood a matter has been closed to then see this reopened again. To see an element of doubt being cast over that process must be very concerning for them.

We know, of course, that domestic abuse and violence is a serious issue, a serious scourge in our state, and errors of this kind can have very serious, real-life consequences. While we understand that all of those charged were charged with a lesser offence, the impacts of those who have experienced family abuse and violence must be considered.

The housing crisis and the cost-of-living crisis are felt much more acutely by people who are experiencing family and domestic violence, with many people, especially women, being forced to choose between living in an environment of abuse or homelessness in circumstances where they have nowhere to go.

It is important for all of the facts relating to this error to be put on the table. We need to be mindful that there is potential for an emotional toll for people who had felt that a matter had been heard by the corrective and judicial systems and are now discovering that that may not be the case. People who have experienced abuse need to be assured that the system is working; otherwise, trust will be lost.

This bill is a sensible measure to ensure that there is a provision to review these situations as required. This will give some certainty to people who have experienced abuse, while at the same time protecting the integrity of our justice system from what appears to have been an administrative error.

I do note the concerns of the Law Society, and I understand the concerns of the Hon. Frank Pangallo about the potential consequences of this. I think he is right to raise those issues—that is the role of the crossbench in this place, to raise issues such as that and to ensure that we apply appropriate scrutiny to the government's legislative program.

In this instance, it is the view of the Greens that it is appropriate for us to move quickly to remedy this, so that we can ensure that there is confidence in the judicial system and so that we can close this chapter for the victims of this abuse. Like the Hon. Mr Pangallo, I do intend to ask some questions at the committee stage to satisfy myself that there will not be unintended consequences.