High Risk Offenders Legislation Amendment Bill 2023

28 November 2023

Ms JODIE HARRISON (Charlestown—Minister for Women, Minister for Seniors, and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault) (01:08): I speak in support of the High Risk Offenders Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. The bill makes it clear that the Minns Government has zero tolerance for domestic, family and sexual violence. It is fundamental that perpetrators of domestic and family violence be held accountable for their behaviour. This is a key principle underpinning the bill.

I say to victim‑survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence that the Government supports you and stands with you. The changes members are debating this morning increase the safety of victim‑survivors, particularly those at greatest risk of serious assault. This Government is committed to a future free of domestic, family and sexual violence. There is no silver bullet to end this scourge. The elimination of domestic, family and sexual violence will only happen by working together across systems, families, communities and social groups. We must all work together to achieve the change we desperately want to see when it comes to the safety of women and children.

Turning to the specifics of the bill, these changes target high‑risk offenders, particularly those with a history of committing a serious strangulation offence. Non-fatal strangulation will be defined as a "serious violence offence" in the same category as crimes such as murder, manslaughter or intentionally inflicted grievous bodily harm. This means that offenders who serve prison sentences for serious strangulation offences may be subject to continuing detention orders and extended supervision orders under the bill. That is particularly the case if the Supreme Court finds that an offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious violent offence or serious sex offence upon release. Why does this bill stack up? A significant body of evidence supports the amendments. Specifically, I take members to the findings in the report of the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team [DVDRT].

Mr Michael Daley: They do a great job.

Ms JODIE HARRISON: They do indeed. I acknowledge the Attorney General commenting on the DVDRT doing a great job. The research identifies a link between non-fatal strangulation and domestic homicide. In more than a quarter of intimate partner homicides, it was found that the abuser had a history of strangling the victim. Non-fatal strangulation was identified as one of the strongest predictors of subsequent intimate partner homicides. The numbers paint a terrifying picture. When a perpetrator has a history of non-fatal strangulation, the risk of attempted intimate partner homicide increases by 700 per cent, and the risk of actual intimate partner homicide increases by a staggering 800 per cent. Strangulation presents a unique risk to victims and can lead to potential future brain injury that may not be immediately apparent at the time of the assault. Clearly, there is an imperative to act.

It is important that we recognise that there is a suite of measures that we need to take, and this bill is one part of the broad suite of work the Government is undertaking to prevent domestic and family violence and sexual assault. It is critical that we have effective crisis responses but, ultimately, we must work to prevent domestic, family and sexual violence, hence this Government's firm focus on primary prevention. The development of the New South Wales domestic and family violence and sexual assault primary prevention strategy in partnership with key stakeholders—led by prevention experts, Our Watch—will spearhead those efforts. I also note that the important work of the Women's Safety Commissioner for New South Wales, Dr Hannah Tonkin, will be key in this work.

In conclusion, I reiterate my support for the bill. The amendments are clearly supported by significant evidence. They will ensure that the justice system is better equipped with the tools that it needs to reduce the risk of domestic and family violence in our communities. This is particularly the case when a victim-survivor is at risk of serious harm or death. I commend the bill to the House.