New laws targeting those accused of family and domestic violence in WA

By Siobhan Nims, Senior Criminal Lawyer – Timpano Legal

From 1 October 2020, a range of new laws came into force, relevant to anyone who finds themselves the subject of family violence allegations.

The most well publicised of the changes are the new laws which make choking or suffocating an intimate partner a new offence in its own right, and which have created a new criminal offence of ‘persistent family violence’. However, the same legislation also includes sweeping changes to the laws about the type and quality of evidence allowed in court, the way bail applies and how the restraining order process works.

The bar for the new offence of ‘suffocation and strangulation’ is a low one. The offence is made out if it’s established that a person unlawfully affects another person’s normal breathing or blood circulation, whether that is by doing so using the hands or using something else (such as a rope or something similar). Unlawful suffocation and strangulation will occur where someone completely or even partially blocks another person’s nose or mouth, or where they apply pressure to another person’s neck.

Similarly, the ‘persistent family violence’ is deliberately broad in its application. ‘Persistent family violence’ will occur where an act of family violence occurs against the same victim three or more different times over a ten year period. ‘Family violence’ covers a wide range of offences, including assaults, stalking and property damage. The offence may be committed against spouses, de facto partners, those engaged to be married and anyone a person has (or has had) an intimate personal relationship with. That includes those who are dating (whether or not any sexual relationship has commenced or not).

The new offence effectively ‘overrides’ the usual protections that WA’s criminal procedure laws usually provide, in a number of ways. Usually, for instance, the prosecution would need to spell out with enough information when an act took place (e.g. dates or other ways of detailing the circumstances of the offence), so that the accused person can prepare for the case against them. The new laws eradicate a substantial number of those safeguards for an accused. In effect, they make it harder for an accused person to identify and potentially defend themselves against alleged historical acts of family violence.

Anyone who finds themselves charged or being investigated in relation to these offences should obtain legal advice as soon as possible. Although the laws impact a wide variety of people, the laws are also complex and it is well worth checking whether a defence may apply. There are technical rules, for example, about when an act of family violence will and will not count towards the three acts required. Certain acts which are ‘simple offences’, and which have a time limit on when they can be prosecuted cannot count as one of the acts of ‘family violence’, if the time limit for that offence has already expired. It is well worth consulting with a lawyer to see if this exception may apply in your matter.

For more information about the ways these new laws may apply to you or your matter, contact one of our criminal lawyers at Timpano Legal.

Talk to one of our Criminal Defence Lawyers

Get a free legal consultation with one of our criminal lawyers

Hear From Our Clients


Absolutely professional throughout the whole messy, complicated ordeal. Everything was fully explained and always kept up to date. Not only a lovely person but highly professional.


I was lost and didn’t know what to do next, the staff at Timpano Legal were wonderful new exactly what to do, when other lawyers I had spoken to didn’t give me any encouraging advice, they kept in touch with me and informed at all times. They Won my case and we will be forever grateful.


I had my initial meeting with Laura regarding some criminal charges and this woman really cared. I feel completely confident having her represent me.


My experience with Laura Willox has been one of, professionalism, quality and friendship. This firm will go out of their way to accommodate you the client. I highly recommend Timpano Legal.


Thank you Laura & Team. Your compassion, respect, understanding & knowledge has helped reinsure me of my rights, and ensured that I received the outcome due to myself & my children. Highly recommend!


At an extremely difficult and worrying time, Timpano stepped in and managed my case with professionalism and care. We had a very positive outcome relatively quickly, and the stress associated with the ordeal was minimised thanks to the team’s ability to navigate the legal system.


I would recommend Timpano Legal as they give you straight to the point advice and work directly with you to sort out matters. Their friendly and experienced team are great and it would be hard to go past using this firm.


Thank you Laura and your lovely team, you held our hand as we navigated an unforeseeable event, your professionalism, honesty, down to earth nature and genuine concern helped us more than you realise, thank you for leading us to the best possible outcome.

Preferred office location

Please select your nearest office location so we can
show you the most relevant information.