‘Long overdue’: ankle monitors and bail crackdown among NSW government’s proposed domestic violence law reforms

<span>The NSW minister for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, Jodie Harrison, with the NSW premier, Chris Minns. The proposed reforms will ‘help keep women and children safer’, the premier says.</span><span>Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP</span>
The NSW minister for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, Jodie Harrison, with the NSW premier, Chris Minns. The proposed reforms will ‘help keep women and children safer’, the premier says.Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Alleged serious domestic violence offenders will find it harder to get bail and will be fitted with ankle monitors if they are released as part of major legal reforms proposed by the New South Wales government.

The premier, Chris Minns, said the changes were “long overdue, targeted and will help keep women and children safer”.

The most significant shift would reverse the presumption of bail, meaning alleged offenders would need to explain why they should be let out if they have been charged with any of several serious domestic violence offences.

Related: Behaviour programs can curb the cycle of domestic violence – so why are hundreds of Australian men on waiting lists?

The change would apply to people charged with the most serious domestic violence-related offences including sexual assault, strangulation, kidnapping and coercive control, which will become a criminal offence in July.

In the reforms, serious offenders would also be fitted with electronic monitoring devices – ankle bracelets – if granted bail. The state already has a domestic violence electronic monitoring program aimed at deterring repeat domestic violence offenders from reoffending.

There has been sustained pressure on governments after the deaths of more than two dozen women Australia-wide in alleged domestic violence incidents in the first four months of the year, including 28-year-old Forbes woman Molly Ticehurst.

Ticehurst’s former partner has been charged over her death. A court heard he had been released on bail two weeks before she died after.

The attorney general, Michael Daley, spoke with the Ticehurst’s father on Monday before the reforms were announced.

“I don’t want to give away any confidences about that except to say that was a very sad, respectful conversation,” he said on Tuesday.

The electronic monitoring changes would take the longest to be implemented if the laws are passed, with Minns warning the government needed time to get the technology right and would listen to victim-survivors on the finer details.

The government will also make changes to make it easier for police to charge people who use tracking and surveillance devices to control victims.

Among the proposed reforms will be the need for all bail decisions to be made by magistrates, including on weekends, and for them to consider domestic abuse risk factors and the views of victims and their families when a person has been charged with a domestic violence offence.

The changes come after the government last week announced a $230m emergency package to support the victim-survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence.

Related: In rural Australia, everyone knows your business – so it’s harder for victims of violence to get help | Gabrielle Chan

Parliament returns on Tuesday after the government announced other law and order reforms last week as a result of stabbings at Bondi Junction and Wakeley.

The proposed changes would allow police to scan people for knives without a warrant in crowded places, including shopping centres, and be based on Queensland’s Jack’s Law, sparked by the death of 17-year-old Jack Beasley in 2019.

Several leading legal groups have spoken out against the proposal, including the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Service head, Karly Warner, who said the powers would lead to Aboriginal people being “disproportionately and unfairly targeted”.

“We are all devastated by recent events where people have tragically lost their lives or been injured by knife violence, but the proposed laws would not have prevented those incidents,” she said.

“All they will do is force more Aboriginal people and other marginalised groups into contact with police.”

• In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123 and the domestic abuse helpline is 0808 2000 247. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 988 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org