The law’s response to domestic violence and the significance of Russia decriminalising domestic violence
On 7 February 2017, a Parliamentary Bill was signed into law in Russia that seriously weakened the country’s protections for victims of domestic violence. The Bill, proposed by MP Yelena Mizulina, suggested that the phrase “battery within families” be removed from Russia’s national criminal code, effectively removing the right for domestic violence victims to report offences in circumstances where they don’t sustain significant bodily injuries.
When that Bill was discussed during Parliament, it was stated that the Bill was intended to “support that family tradition” (being the authority of the parents’ power) however, there were many issues that weren’t raised during the discussion of the Bill. These issues include the legal implications surrounding violence between spouses, and the impacts of minor batteries within a domestic environment. Assaults and batteries can amount to significant physiological injuries in the long term, and can escalate into more severe acts of violence as the domestic relationship progresses.
Whilst the passing of the Bill in Russia has sent shockwaves through the international legal community, it’s also the case that in many Western countries, laws for the benefit of domestic violence victims have only progressed quite recently. In Australia for example, the exemption to sexual assault accusations when made within the confines of a marriage wasn’t removed from common law until the High Court case of R v L in 1991. Thankfully, the Australian courts have been more proactive since that time. Their approach to domestic violence within the community has dramatically shifted both in regard with regard to penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence, and how the Courts view violence in relation to the needs of the victim and of any third parties (including children) who have been exposed to that violence.
In the NSW Criminal Jurisdiction, the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (the Domestic Violence Act) outlines typical offences (including stalking, harassing and the use of recording devices) as well as more serious charges such as contravening an Apprehended Personal Violence Order (‘APVO’) or Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO). Violent offences outlined in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) are also expressly linked to the Domestic Violence Act to provide victims with greater access to protection when they feel they are at risk from offences such as sexual, verbal or physical assault. This also provides easier access for victims of domestic violence to take out APVOs and ADVOs to protect themselves and any children or third parties.
In the family law Jurisdiction, the court has adopted the “Family Violence Best Practice Principles” which provide guidance for legal practitioners and the wider community regarding the effects of family violence on victims. The Court focusses on the best interests of the children and ensuring their safety from abuse or family violence.
If you have any questions regarding current laws and legal protections in place around domestic violence, please contact our Family Law specialists: