Spousal immunity rules scrapped
The centuries-old rule that protects people from prosecution for failing to dob in their spouses to police has been abolished.
A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Greg Smith said the legal defence of spousal immunity would no longer be available.
The NSW government yesterday removed common law rules that prevent a person from being found guilty of an offence involving a failure to disclose a crime committed by a partner or spouse.
The High Court recently held that the common law does not recognise any privilege in relation to spousal incrimination. But it did not specifically rule on whether the common law immunity still exists.
"The amendment in this Bill will provide absolute clarity regarding this issue," the spokeswoman said. "It will explicitly abolish any common law rule that prevents a person from being found guilty of an offence involving failing to disclose a crime committed by their husband, wife or de facto partner."
"The Crimes Act already contains provisions abolishing common law spousal immunity defences in relation to conspiracy between spouses, and a wife being accessory after the fact to a felony committed by her husband. The amendment contained in the Bill will ensure consistency of treatment for similar offences."
Greens MP and justice spokesman, David Shoebridge, said the change risked damaging the institution of marriage.
"There is a public interest in protecting close personal relationships and encouraging trust and confidence between partners," Mr Shoebridge said.
"This law will make it a blanket rule that, regardless of the circumstances, it will be a crime to not dob your partner in to the police.
"We know very well that there are many women living in violent relationships who are emotionally unable to leave their partner, let alone positively inform on their partner to the police.
"This will even make it a crime for a woman, who has been subject to serious and constant assaults at the hands of her partner, to not report her partner's crimes to the police."