WESTERN Australia will introduce some of the country's toughest laws against domestic violence, requiring a "presumption of imprisonment" for offenders who breach violence restraining orders three times.
One step away from mandatory sentencing and based on a NSW model, Attorney-General Christian Porter said courts would have to presume in favour of locking the offender away.
Under the legislation, to be introduced in parliament this week, offenders could only avoid jail in "exceptional circumstances". Written reasons would have to be provided in the judgment if a jail term was not imposed.
Mr Porter said the stronger laws were needed to address the increasing "scourge of domestic violence".
"We feel compelled to act in an area where there have been more and more incidents of domestic violence and fewer and fewer people being punished with a jail term for breaching violence restraining orders," he said. "The statistics we have available to us show that people who have breached a VRO four times or more, only about a quarter of those people after the fourth breach ever end up going to prison. And the government considers women deserve far greater protection."
Last year, 9102 VROs were granted, the lowest number since 2007, with 2708 breaches. But the number of on-the spot police orders has climbed from 6882 in 2005 to 10295 in 2009-10.
The Law Society of WA questioned the need for the amended laws. "Where offenders commit actual violence when breaching a violence restraining order, courts usually imprison anyway so I'm not sure this amendment is necessary," president Hylton Quail said.
"We would be against presumptive imprisonment where breaches don't involve violence, particularly in circumstances where there are consensual breaches, where they have reconciled but failed to lift the order. Courts must have the discretion to deal with those breaches.
Under the proposed laws, breaching a VRO would be classed as a "serious offence", making it harder for offender to get bail. And the duration of on-the-spot VROs police could hand out would be extended from 24 to 72 hours.
Opposition leader Eric Ripper said he wanted to examine the details of the legislation but indicated preliminary support. "We would support any measures which are proven to improve women's confidence in the effectiveness of VRO," he said.