Breaches of Domestic Violence Orders

Domestic violence is a common theme, encountered by Family Lawyers. It has been brought into the more public sphere by the incidents that occurred in Camp Hill last week.

It is interesting to understand how breaches of domestic and family violence orders are dealt with in the Queensland Courts with a decision made last week.

The Facts

  • Offender was a 38 year old male
  • He had an “unenviable criminal history” from when he was 14 years old, involving numerous periods of imprisonment for drug offending and offences of violence
  • He had breached bail conditions and conditions of suspended sentences previously
  • On 5 September 2018 he committed two offence of assault occasioning bodily harm against his female partner
  • On 14 February 2019 he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for those two offences. A parole release date was nominated as 18 June 2019 and he was released on that date.
  • On 29 June 2019 whilst on parole, he went to the house of his former partner (who was still protected by a domestic and family violence order from his offences in September 2018). He argued with his former partner over mobile phones.
  • His former partner was scared and called police and when they arrived she was found hiding in a manhole in the ceiling.
  • On 23 September 2019 he was sentenced for breaching the terms of the domestic and family violence order, for the incident on 29 June 2019.
  • The sentence imposed was imprisonment for six months. The maximum possible penalty was three years imprisonment.
  • The sentence also set his parole eligibility date to 10 February 2021, so he would not be eligible to get parole prior to serving this sentence.
  • He appealed, submitting that the sentence was “manifestly excessive” and the parole eligibility date should have been earlier.
  • The District Court on appeal found that the sentence was appropriate, but that the parole eligibility date should be brought forward to 14 February 2020.

The struggle that the court faces when imposing any sentence for a criminal conviction is the balancing of principles set out in the Penalty and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld). Allowance in that act has already been made for offences of violence or offences that result in physical harm having primary regard to the principles of risk to victims or members of the public and the need to protect from that risk and the safety of the public. In those cases the principle about a sentence of imprisonment being the last resort does not apply.

This serves as one illustration of the complexity and intersection of domestic violence in our community. The “Not Now, Not Ever” Taskforce recognised that complexity which was reflected in the wide-ranging recommendations for reform.