Northern Territory Second Reading Speeches

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Madam Speaker, I move that the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to amend section 42 of the
Domestic and Family Violence Act which pertains to domestic violence orders issued by police, known as police DVOs. This amendment will ensure that whilst an authorised officer defined as senior sergeant or above is authorised to make a police DVO they do not need to physically note the matters on the police DVO and can authorise a junior officer to do so.

Section 41 of the
Domestic Violence Act gives authorised officers the powers to issue a police DVO in circumstances where the authorised officer is satisfied that the police DVO is necessary to ensure a person’s safety because of urgent circumstances or because it is not otherwise practicable in those circumstances to obtain a DVO by filing an application in the local court, and a local court DVO might reasonably have been made had it been practicable to apply for one. A police DVO may be made even if the defendant has not been given an opportunity to answer any allegation made in relation to the making of a police DVO.

Section 42 sets out the particulars that must be recorded on a police DVO - being the reasons for making it and the time and place for its return to the local court - and states that the authorised police officer must record those particulars on the police DVO.

Recently an increasing number of respondents are arguing that the police DVO that has the particulars recorded by an officer who is not an authorised officer is invalid. The interpretation has not been widely adopted by the courts. However, in the interests of safety of victims of domestic violence this amendment is being made to put the matter beyond doubt.

Police DVOs are often issued in the immediate aftermath of an alleged domestic and family violence incident and are usually served upon the defendant forthwith. In circumstances where the defendant is not taken into custody, this offers immediate protection to the protected person. The police DVO has immediate effect in that any breach of the DVO between the time of service and the first return date to the local court will result in a charge of a breach of a DVO. The police DVO also acts as a summons for the defendant to appear in the local court where they may seek to contest the police DVO, or alternatively it may be confirmed for a period of time and determined by the local court.

From an operational perspective the police officer in the field contacts the authorised police officer, often by telephone, to seek authorisation to issue a police DVO. The police officer will then record the particulars as dictated by the authorised officer on the police DVO. The order can then be immediately served, thus providing immediate protection to the protected person. If the authorised officer has to personally record the details on the police DVO, the officer in the field will have to physically seek out the nearest authorised officer which will often result in significant delays thus endangering the protected person. The delay may also result in the police having difficulty in locating the parties to which the order applies.

The amendment clarifies that the authorised police officer may cause the relevant particulars to be recorded on the police DVO by another officer, and it is not necessary for the authorised officer to record the particulars in person or by physically present when the particulars are recorded on the police DVO.

I commend the bill to honourable members and I table a copy of the explanatory statement.

Debate adjourned.


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