FAMILY AND DOMESTIC
VIOLENCE — VICTIMS — CROSS-EXAMINATION
782. Hon CHARLES SMITH to the Leader of the House
representing the Attorney General:
I refer to the 2017 commonwealth
parliamentary inquiry entitled ''A better family law system to support
and protect those affected by family violence'' and the comments by
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant stating that her court does not ''have
the resources it needs to protect parents and children from violence''.
(1) Does the
Attorney General support introducing or amending Western Australian legislation
to stop those suffering from family violence offences being personally
cross-examined by alleged perpetrators so the court can stop survivors of
family violence suffering further trauma?
(2) If no to (1),
(3) Is the
Attorney General also considering criminal legislation aimed at protecting
those who are victims of false allegations of domestic violence offences?
(4) If no to (3),
I thank the
honourable member for some notice of the question.
(1) The Attorney
General supports measures aimed at preventing victims of family and domestic
violence from experiencing further trauma when giving evidence in court,
including the prohibition of direct cross-examination. Section 44C of the Western
Australian Restraining Orders Act 1997 already prohibits the direct
cross-examination of a person seeking the protection of a family violence
restraining order and any child giving evidence in restraining order
proceedings under section 53D. In relation to criminal matters, section 106G of the Western Australian Evidence Act 1906
prohibits the direct cross-examination of children, victims of serious
sexual offences and prosecution witnesses in criminal organisation offences,
and section 25A gives the court discretion to prohibit the direct
cross-examination of other witnesses. The government is currently considering
options for strengthening these provisions of the Evidence Act, including in
relation to their coverage of victims of family and domestic violence.
In the family law context, the
commonwealth Parliament is currently considering amendments to the Family Law
Act 1975 that would prohibit direct cross-examination in proceedings that
involve substantiated allegations of family and domestic violence. It is customary
for the Western Australian Family Court Act 1997 to be amended in line with
amendments to the commonwealth Family Law Act. The Attorney General will
continue to monitor the progress of the proposed commonwealth amendments and
associated commonwealth funding proposals.
(2) Not applicable.
(4) The Criminal
Code already criminalises the making of false allegations. Section 171 of the
code makes it an offence to create a false belief that an offence has been
committed. The maximum penalty for this offence is two years'
imprisonment. In addition, a person who knowingly gives false testimony in
judicial proceedings may commit the offence of perjury under section 124 of the
code. The maximum penalty for this offence is 14 years or, in limited
circumstances, life imprisonment. In view of these existing offences, the
Attorney General does not perceive a need to introduce additional offences that
are specific to false allegations of family and domestic violence.