While it is an offence for anyone to assault someone else, if the victim was, at the time the offence was committed, a family member of the offender the maximum penalty has been increased to three years imprisonment [Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) s 20].
If an assault or other offence has been committed, the police should charge the offender. Problems may arise with the willingness of the victim to testify against her or his spouse. Promises that 'things will be better in the future' and 'it will never happen again' can be very convincing for some victims.
Where the victim is a family member of the alleged offender, the offence is classified as a minor indictable offence. This gives the alleged offender the right to either have the matter dealt with in a summary court or to elect for trial before a jury in the District Court, see CRIMINAL AND TRAFFIC OFFENCES, Types of Crimes and Courts. This may create difficulties for a victim who does not suffer any visible evidence of injury. The case may amount to the word of the victim versus the word of the alleged offender. The jury's response may well be a reflection of the community's attitude towards family violence which, in the past, has been to view it as within the private sphere and not subject to public disapproval. The victim's case will be strengthened by other evidence which will support the claim. For example, evidence of the effect of blows on the victim's body may be given by a doctor and this evidence will have more weight if the doctor is seen as soon as possible after the assault. Photographs may also be of great assistance and any eye witness account by neighbours or friends or anyone present at the time.
The court must, as far as practicable, deal with proceedings for intervention orders as a matter of priority.
See also the Criminal Law chapter of the Law Handbook on Assault.
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