What is Coercive Control in NSW?

Indecent Assault

Coercive Control in NSW refers to a pattern of behaviour in which one person in a relationship seeks to control and manipulate the thoughts, beliefs, or conduct of their partner through intimidation, degradation, and other forms of psychological abuse. This type of control is often insidious and difficult to identify, as it can be subtle and disguised as acts of love or concern. It is a form of domestic violence that has been recognised by the government of New South Wales (NSW) as a serious issue that requires legal intervention.


In Australia, several states and territories have enacted laws to target the issue of coercive control. These laws aim to provide a comprehensive response to the issue of domestic violence, and they recognize that domestic violence is not just physical but can also take the form of psychological and emotional abuse. The laws aim to protect the victims of domestic violence by criminalising the behaviour of the abuser, who may be subject to penalties, including imprisonment.

Coercive Control NSW Legislation

In NSW, the law recognises the harm caused by coercive control and has taken steps to address it. The Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 defines domestic violence as behaviour that is intended to intimidate, control, or cause fear in a person who is in a domestic relationship with the perpetrator. This definition encompasses a wide range of behaviours, including physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and economic abuse.


In 2019, the NSW government introduced amendments to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 that specifically criminalise coercive control. The new legislation recognises that coercive control is a form of psychological abuse that can have severe and lasting effects on a victim’s mental and emotional well-being. Under the new laws, it is illegal for a person to engage in a pattern of behaviour that is intended to control, intimidate, or cause fear in a partner.


The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022 in NSW creates a new offense by adding Section 54D to the Crimes Act 1900. This offense requires the following elements to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:


  • The defendant must be at least 18 years old.
  • The defendant engaged in a pattern of behaviour towards another person (the complainant).
  • The defendant’s behaviour towards the complainant was abusive.
  • The defendant and complainant were or are intimate partners.
  • The defendant’s intention behind their behaviour was to control or coerce the complainant.
  • A reasonable person would consider the defendant’s behaviour to have caused the complainant to fear violence against themselves or another person, or have a significant negative impact on their ability to carry out everyday activities.

Other states and territories, including Victoria, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory, have followed New South Wales in introducing laws specifically targeting coercive control. These laws provide definitions of what constitutes a course of conduct and abusive behaviour and provide a range of penalties for those who engage in such behaviour.

What is considered a "course of conduct"?

According to Section 54G, “course of conduct” refers to repeated or continuous behaviour. The behaviour doesn’t need to be consecutive or uninterrupted, and can occur in NSW or in another jurisdiction.


In addition, Section 54F defines “abusive behaviour” as:


a) Violence, threats, or intimidation towards a person, or


b) Coercion or control over the person being targeted.


Section 54F provides a non-exhaustive list of behaviours that may be considered “abusive behaviour,” including:


  • Harming a child if the person does not comply with demands made of them.
  • Harming the person being targeted or another adult if the person does not comply with demands made of them.
  • Economic or financial abuse.
  • Humiliation, degradation or shame.
  • Harassment, monitoring, or tracking of a person’s activities, communications, or movements through physical means, technology, or otherwise.
  • Damage or destruction of property.
  • Preventing the person from connecting with family, friends, or culture, participating in cultural or spiritual practices, expressing their cultural identity, or isolation.
  • Injury or death to an animal, or using an animal to threaten a person.
  • Depriving or unreasonably controlling a person’s freedom and daily activities.

Penalties for Coercive Control

In New South Wales (NSW), the penalty for the crime of coercive control as outlined in the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022 can vary based on the severity of the offense.


A person found guilty of the crime of coercive control in NSW may face a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment. The severity of the punishment can depend on the specific circumstances of the case, such as the length and severity of the course of conduct, and the impact on the victim.


Additionally, the court may impose other penalties, such as fines or community service, or may make an order for compensation to be paid to the victim. It is important to note that the court can take into account any prior convictions or history of abuse when determining the appropriate sentence.


It is also important to remember that a person charged with the crime of coercive control in NSW will be entitled to a fair trial and the benefit of the legal protections provided by the Australian legal system. The prosecution will have to prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a person to be convicted.

What is Legal Defence to the offence of Coercive Control?

The legal defence available to coercive control charge is that your conduct was reasonable in all the circumstances. This does not reverse the onus of proof on you. The onus of proof remains on the prosecution to prove the elements of the offence beyond reasonable doubt.

Is Coercive Control Illegal in NSW?

Coercive control is illegal in NSW. The 2019 amendments to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 make it a criminal offense to engage in a pattern of behaviour that is intended to control, intimidate, or cause fear in a partner. This includes behaviours such as monitoring a person’s movements, controlling their access to money or other resources, or preventing them from seeing friends and family.


Penalties for violating the laws on coercive control in NSW can include imprisonment, fines, and restraining orders. The length of the sentence and the size of the fine will depend on the severity of the abuse and the specific circumstances of the case.


The NSW government recognises the importance of providing support to victims of domestic violence, including those who have been subjected to coercive control. There are a number of services available to assist victims, including hotlines, counselling services, and shelters. In addition, the government has established a number of initiatives aimed at raising awareness of the issue and encouraging victims to come forward and report abuse.


Accordingly, coercive control is a serious form of domestic violence that can have a profound impact on a victim’s well-being. The NSW government has taken steps to address this issue by introducing laws that specifically criminalise coercive control and by providing support and resources to victims.

The Impact of Coercive Control Laws

The introduction of coercive control laws in Australia has been a significant step in addressing the issue of domestic violence. The laws aim to provide a comprehensive response to the issue of domestic violence and to protect the victims of domestic violence. The laws provide a legal framework for addressing the issue of domestic violence and help to ensure that victims have access to the support and resources they need to rebuild their lives.


The laws also provide a deterrent to those who engage in abusive behaviour, as they may be subject to penalties, including imprisonment. The laws also provide a framework for the police to respond to incidents of domestic violence, which can help to reduce the number of incidents of domestic violence and ensure that victims are protected from further abuse.


If you have been charged with a coercive control NSW offence, be sure to contact an expert criminal lawyer from Lyons Law Group.

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