In 2011 the Magistrates Court Act 1930 was amended by the Courts Legislation Amendment Act 2011 giving statutory recognition to the Family Violence list created by the Magistrates Court and thereby creating a specialised criminal court charged with hearing domestic violence offences.
By providing the Family Violence Court with a legislative basis a new more integrated approach to dealing with violence in the home was followed – an approach that recognises the complexities and special interest in protection of individual victims and the community as a whole. The approach is also consistent with the goals of the ACT Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP), a coordinated ACT Government criminal justice and community response to criminal family violence.
When a magistrate sits as the Family Violence Court, the magistrate may be referred to as the Family Violence Court Magistrate. This provides greater flexibility for the Magistrates Court in the conduct of its business and acknowledges that more than one Magistrate may be sitting as the Family Violence Court Magistrate at any one time.
The Family Violence Court exercises criminal jurisdiction and deals with:
- any criminal proceeding against a person in relation to a summary domestic violence offence if the person was 18 years old or over at the time of the alleged offence;
- any criminal proceeding against a person in relation to an indictable domestic violence offence if the person was 18 years old or over at the time of the alleged offence;
- a proceeding in relation to bail for an adult charged with a domestic violence offence;
- a proceeding in relation to a breach of a sentence imposed by the Magistrates Court of the Family Violence Court on a person for a domestic violence offence.
Where allegations include domestic violence offences and other offences, the jurisdiction of the Family Violence Court may be exercised. It will be a matter for the Court to determine how and if the charges will be split across jurisdictions.
Domestic violence against children and young people will continue to be heard in the Childrens Court.
For an offence to fall within the jurisdiction of the Family Violence Court the offence has to satisfy certain provisions of the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008 (DVPO ACT); an offence is a domestic violence offence if it falls with section 90 or schedule 1 of the DVPO Act and satisfies the definition of the term in section 13(1).
In addition, for the Family Violence Court to be able to exercise its jurisdiction to hear a domestic violence matter, the victim - according to section 15 of the DVPO Act - has to be:
- a domestic partner or former domestic partner of the victim; or
- a relative of the victim; or
- a child of a domestic partner or former domestic partner of the victim; or
- a parent of a child of the victim;
- or someone who is or has been in a relevant relationship with the victim.
A relevant relationship means an intimate relationship beyween 2 people other than a domestic partnership.
Any enquiries concerning the Court should be directed to Magistrates Court counter staff (Criminal Section) who will be able to provide information as to the time and date of the hearing as well as the courtroom in which the matter is being heard.