Letter: The Hon. Michael Daley structural change for domestic and family violence policy

Dear Attorney General

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties joins our community in mourning the intolerable rates of women being murdered in Australia. Eleven women have been murdered in the month of April alone. In 2024, the rate of murdered women has doubled compared to this time last year.

The rising rate of domestic violence has not abated in NSW, even after new laws and tougher penalties were introduced over the past six years. We strongly believe that this scourge cannot be solved by expanding of police powers.  If we are to reduce the occurrence of these types of horrendous crimes, we must ensure that structural failures within our criminal justice system and our communities are appropriately understood, addressed and funded. Without appropriate resourcing and funding, laws are rendered impotent.

The Local Courts in New South Wales are the first forum where bail decisions are made. This jurisdiction has urgently needed more funding, investment, and the allocation of resources for decades.

One of our biggest concerns is that Registrars in Local Courts have the power to determine bail.

As you would understand, Registrars have administrative responsibilities and the majority do not hold law degrees. We believe it is unfair to expect them to make bail determinations.

The power to determine bail should be reserved for Magistrates. Accordingly, the appointment of Magistrates in our Local Courts, particularly those from the criminal law jurisdiction, must become a priority for the NSW Government.

We further note that many criminal lawyers often raise concerns that appointments are predominately from the prosecution. We would support initiatives to appoint Magistrates who are experienced in working as defence lawyers and who are culturally and linguistically diverse. A diverse bench is better able to understand how domestic and family violence manifests in diverse communities.

It is important to note that NSW Police have always had the right to appeal against a bail decision and often do.

In the face of particular violent crimes, it is tempting to believe that making changes to bail laws or increasing the penalties for particular crimes such as domestic violence related offences will solve the problem.

It won’t.

Legislative changes, without making any structural or cultural change will always leave women unsafe and at risk of violence.

We call upon the NSW Government to:

  1. Resist introducing any legislative changes pending the findings of the recently announced inquiry with respect to the Forbes matter, and until the review into the legal protections against forced marriage has released its report (noting the issue of Apprehended Personal Domestic Violence Orders were raised).
  2. Immediately abolish the statutory provisions that allow Registrars to conduct bail decisions.
  3. Appoint Magistrates with a criminal law/defence background and people from CALD backgrounds.
  4. Invest in technology to enable Magistrates to appear remotely which appropriately balances safety concerns and the facilitation of the administration of justice.
  5. Appropriately resource the criminal justice system and ensure that appeals with respect to bail decisions are listed and heard expeditiously (noting that there are significant delays).
  6. Commit to holding a Criminal Law and Family Violence Summit by the end of 2024 that allows stakeholders to engage in critical discussions.
  7. Invest and sustainably fund programs, including community programs, that holistically support victim-survivors and their dependents which includes short term and long-term programs; and
  8. Support the call from Rosie Batty to establish a Royal Commission into Domestic and Family Violence in NSW.

We appreciate your strong commitment to making positive change for women and families in NSW. We are happy to speak with you further about the issues raised in this letter.

Yours sincerely


Lydia Shelly


Download the letter here.