From Tuesday, concerned women or men in South Australia will be able to ask for details of an intimate partner’s criminal history — such as a spouse, de facto or same-sex partner or boyfriend — if they are concerned about their behaviour.
From Tuesday, concerned women or men in South Australia will be able to ask for details of an intimate partner’s criminal history — such as a spouse, de facto or same-sex partner or boyfriend — if they are concerned about their behaviour.

'Have they been abusive before?': Criminal pasts revealed

HAVE they been abusive before? This is the question you would be able to ask police. 

But it's only available in South Australia.

The scheme which could save the lives of South Australians who are afraid their partner may be violent will begin operating next week.

From Tuesday, concerned women or men will be able to ask for details of an intimate partner's criminal history - such as a spouse, de facto or same-sex partner or boyfriend - if they are concerned about their behaviour.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said women and children who had died in the past could have been saved by the new Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.

Ms Chapman said she regularly read "traumatic" Coroner's reports about murders that followed an "extraordinary amount" of concerning behaviour by an abuser.

"Every time I finish these reports I think to myself how could we better inform these people in this situation to be able to deal with this before they got to this stage?" she said.

Ms Chapman described the scheme as a "pre-emptive strike" designed to encourage people to reach out for advice when early "red flags" appear, rather than waiting until a crime or serious abuse occurs.

A Domestic Violence Crisis Line call centre worker. Photo: Naomi Jellicoe
A Domestic Violence Crisis Line call centre worker. Photo: Naomi Jellicoe

A person who feels at risk, or a third-party such as a friend or relative, can apply online or at a police station to be told about their partner's criminal history. This could include convictions for physical or sexual assault, stalking or threats - including crimes committed interstate - and charges which were dropped or acquitted.

Current or past court orders to keep someone away from their partner are included, and any breaches, but not details of spent convictions, or nonviolent offences such as drink driving or fraud.

Should other Australian states introduce similar legislation?

This poll ended on 03 October 2018.

Current Results

Yes, it could save lives

68%

No, that's a breach of privacy

21%

I'm not sure

9%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

A similar scheme in NSW is credited with saving more than 50 people at risk of violence.

Applicants must prove there is an intimate relationship between them, or their loved one, and the person in question. Cases where couples have separated but share custody of children are also covered.

If police decide to disclose details of a criminal history, the person who receives the information must sign an agreement that they will not share it publicly. In some cases there may be no relevant history to disclose.

The meeting to disclose information will be held in an agreed, safe place but not a police station or the person's home.

Information will only be released to the person at risk, not any friend or relative who applied on their behalf.

The person under investigation will not be told but SA Police will keep a record of those who have been the subject of an application.

For support phone 1800 RESPECT or the Domestic Violence Crisis Line on 1800 800 098.