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Prevalent and Insidious: the Sin of Coercive Control

Law as stated: 23 December 2022 What is this? This episode was published and is accurate as at this date.
In this episode Andrew Tiedt, Director of J Sutton Associates, steps us through the new NSW standalone offence of coercive control - touching on the difficulties associated with an offence grounded on a course of conduct, the elements of the offence, and potential defences.
Substantive Law Substantive Law
Andrew Tiedt
J Sutton Associates
1 hour = 1 CPD point
How does it work?
What area(s) of law does this episode consider?The new NSW coercive control criminal offence introduced by the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Act 2022 (NSW).
Why is this topic relevant?On 16 November 2022, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022 was passed into law in NSW. With the passing of the Bill, NSW became the first Australian state to legislate a specific standalone offence of coercive control.
What legislation is considered in this episode?Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Act 2022 (NSW)

Crimes (Personal and Domestic Violence) Act 2007 (NSW)

What are the main points?
  • Domestic violence offences can be difficult to prosecute because victims can sometimes believe it’s “part of the relationship” and that it’s acceptable.
  • The new standalone coercive control offence attempts to make repeated abusive behaviour criminal while ensuring that perfectly harmless behaviour remains lawful.
  • This has led to the parliament erring on the side of breadth as opposed to specificity to encourage a commonsense approach to interpreting what is considered abusive behaviour.
  • The legislation means that if a person engages in abusive behavior towards a person with whom they are or were an intimate partner, and they intend that conduct to coerce or control the other person, then they commit an offence.
  • The offence requires a course of conduct, meaning the abusive behaviour must be engaged in repeatedly or continuously.
  • A defence is that, in all the circumstances, the actions were reasonable.
What are the practical takeaways?
  • Due to the nature of the offence there is unlikely to be any physical evidence of what occurred, such as CCTV.
  • The offence is very different from other criminal offences. Most other offences refer to one act – an assault, for example – coercive control refers to a pattern of behaviours or acts.
Show notesAustralian Bureau of Statistics, Personal Safety Survey, 2016

Australian Institute of Criminology, Intimate partner violence during the COVID-19 pandemic: A survey of women in Australia, October 2021

Australian Institute of Criminology, Statistical Bulletin 30, March 2021

Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control, Report, June 2021

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Domestic Violence Statistics for NSW, December 2021

UK Home Office, Review of the Controlling or Coercive Behaviour Offence, March 2021