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Family or ‘domestic’ violence is of great concern to Australian Courts and communities.  Over recent years, awareness about this pressing issue has grown, leading to more stringent laws and regulations to combat family violence. As the legal framework tightens around family violence offences, many wonder about the repercussions faced by the perpetrators in Victoria.

Understanding Family Violence

Family violence is broadly defined and transcends just physical harm. It encompasses emotional, economic, social, or psychological harm inflicted on one individual by another within an intimate, familial, or cohabitation relationship. Such behaviours might include threats, harassment, financial deprivation, or even stalking.

Many types of offences can occur in a familial context, and therefore be considered as family violence offences. These including:

  • Sexual offences;
  • Stalking;
  • Using carriage services to harass;
  • Making Threats to kill or seriously injure;
  • Assaults;
  • Inflicting injury or serious injury;
  • Deception offences;
  • Homicides (including murder).

These are all criminal offences. If convicted, you will be sentenced by the Court.

Penalties and Jail Time

While family violence encompasses a range of behaviours, not all result in imprisonment. The severity of the penalty depends on the gravity of the offence and the personal circumstances of the offender.

  • First-time Offenders: Often, first-time offenders might not face immediate imprisonment unless the incident is extremely severe or involves significant injury or protracted psychological abuse.
  • Repeat Offenders: Those with a history of repeated offences have a higher likelihood of facing imprisonment. The courts in Australia view repeated transgressions as an indicator of consistent disregard for the law and an ongoing threat to the victim. Protection of the community becomes an important sentencing factor
  • The severity of the Offence: Crimes that lead to grievous injuries, use of weapons, or harm to children may result in more severe penalties, including longer durations of jail time.
  • Conduct since the offending: Behaviour between offence and sentence can be of vital importance. Engaging in appropriate treatment and rehabilitation can be key to avoiding prison. Alternatively ongoing unlawful conduct – including breaching bail conditions or intervention orders – can increase the severity of the penalty.

Victorian Laws on Domestic Violence

Alongside the criminal law, there is civil legislation aimed at protecting victims of family violence.

In Victoria, the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 provides the mechanism by which victims or Victoria Police can apply for and issue orders prohibiting the behaviour of alleged family violence perpetrators. These are civil orders, which restrict people from engaging in certain behaviour, including family violence.

  • Intervention Orders: In Victoria, intervention orders can be placed against someone committing family violence. These legal tools prevent the person from certain activities, such as approaching the victim or their home. The breach of such orders is treated seriously, often resulting in significant penalties which can include imprisonment.
  • Definition of Family Violence: The Act which creates the scheme under which intervention orders are made provides an inclusive definition of family violence, covering not just physical or sexual abuse but also emotional, psychological, and economic abuses. This comprehensive approach recognises the multifaceted nature of domestic abuse, extending beyond just physical harm.
  • Accountability of Perpetrators: The Act places a strong emphasis on holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Seeking Representation from a Family Violence Lawyer

When faced with family violence charges or an IVO in Victoria, the expertise of a lawyer experienced in dealing with family violence matters is crucial. Their representation offers the following benefits:

  • Legal Understanding: They have a comprehensive grasp of the intricate family violence laws in Victoria, ensuring clients are informed about how these laws impact their specific situations.
  • Evidence Presentation: These lawyers assist in accumulating and presenting pivotal evidence, from medical records to witness statements, enhancing the chances of a favourable legal outcome.
  • Safety and Protection: Their prompt actions can help secure protection orders swiftly, ensuring victims are shielded from further harm.
  • Court Representation: Family violence cases are dealt with in court – including in some specialist family violence courts. Appearance by a skilled lawyer familiar with the legal territory is vital to ensure that the parties rights are protected.
  • Support Connections: Beyond legal counsel, they can connect clients to essential support services, including behaviour specific or substance misuse counselling.
  • Negotiations: Effective negotiation in family violence cases can be the key to securing the best outcome while avoiding the unnecessary stress and expense of a fully contested hearing. Careful consideration is given by skilled lawyers as to the pros and cons of settlement while bearing in mind the importance of any party having the right to fully pursue their position if resolution cannot be reached.

The Importance of Legal Counsel and Family Violence Lawyers

Domestic violence is a severe crime, and Australia’s legal system treats it as such. While not every offence leads to jail time, the potential for imprisonment exists, especially for repeat offenders or those involved in severe incidents. If faced with such charges, it’s essential to engage a qualified domestic violence lawyer in Melbourne to navigate the intricacies of the legal system, ensuring a fair trial and safeguarding one’s rights.

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