Emotional and psychological abuse

The cases identified here provide examples of the way judicial officers have dealt with some of the issues raised in the context statement.

Click on the citation to be directed to a summary of the case in the Case Database.

  • R v Kulczycki [2018] ACTSC 9 (30 January 2018) – Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court
    (Where the defendant sent the complainant emails and text messages threatening to release a video of the defendant and complainant engaged in sexual activity unless the complainant paid him $20,000) Justice Elkaim remarked on the seriousness of the blackmail in the context of a domestic relationship at [16]: ‘blackmail of the type involved in this case must be regarded as serious. This is not so much because of the amount of money demanded but because it involved a threat to breach the privacy of a relationship and to cause severe embarrassment to the complainant’.
  • R v Mazaydeh [2014] ACTSC 325 (13 November 2014) – Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court

    Murrell CJ at [15]-[16]: ‘These offences occurred in the context of a previous relationship between the offender and the victim and involved violence within the victim's home, an apparent sense of entitlement on the part of the offender, and humiliation through verbal and text abuse of the victim’.

    ‘The sentencing purposes of punishment, general deterrence and denunciation are very important, as well as the recognition of harm to the victim personally and the community generally through offences of this nature. The victim provided a victim impact statement in which she referred to impacts upon her of the type that frequently result from offences of domestic violence, including feelings of anxiety, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating at work and elsewhere, and an adverse effect on her ability to form relationships. Since the incident, the victim has moved house because she felt unsafe in the apartment where the offence occurred’.
  • R v In [2001] ACTSC 102 (2 November 2001) – Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court
    Crispin J at [24]-[25]: ‘In my view the offences which the prisoner committed were too serious to be dealt with in that manner. His wife was confined for an extended period and, whether he now remembers it or not, he behaved in a manner which was clearly calculated to terrify her. He plainly made no attempt to conceal his identity, yet put tape over her eyes. It is difficult to imagine any explanation for that conduct other than that it was calculated to cause fear. Even if he did not intended to carry them out, it is obvious that his threats to kill the children were also made for that purpose. Furthermore, his conduct in turning on the tap in the kitchen, going to his daughter's bedroom and saying in a voice loud enough for his wife to hear "Now take this darling, I know tastes awful, doesn't it" amounted, in my view, to an exercise in sadistic cruelty. A tape recording of his wife's telephone call to obtain an ambulance was admitted in evidence. It records what one might have expected, a mother almost incoherent with fear that her children may have been poisoned’.
  • DMK v CAG [2016] QDC 106 (15 April 2016) – District Court of Queensland
    Morzone QC DCJ: ‘Proof of emotional or psychological abuse depends not only on the inherent behaviour but also its effect of tormenting, intimidating, harassing or offending the subject aggrieved’([43]).
  • K v K [2012] TASMC 3 (25 January 2012) – Magistrates’ Court of Tasmania
    Magistrate R W Pearce: In discussing ‘verbal abuse’: ‘It is difficult to characterise or define what words may amount to threats, intimidation or abuse. The same words may in some circumstances amount to a threat or abuse when in other circumstances they may not. Much depends on the background and the context. In some circumstances even the most seemingly innocent words may be highly intimidatory. The court should consider whether one of the parties is in a position of disadvantage, either physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially or economically’ ([29]).
  • Mayne v Tasmania [2017] TASSC 38 (29 June 2017) – Supreme Court of Tasmania

    Wood J said at [43]:

    … it is important that deterrent sentences be imposed not merely for crimes that cause grave physical or psychological harm to victims. There is a need to counter the perception that somehow violence of this kind in the home is less serious than the same kind of violence inflicted on a stranger in a public place. Also, acts of violence committed in a family or domestic context causing fear and distress to victims can have debilitating effects upon their well-being or the well-being of a family member witnessing such violence. It is not only violence resulting in visible injury that must be seen as unacceptable, and these victims, as vulnerable members of our society who have experienced fear and trauma, are entitled to the court's protection.
  • Pasinis v The Queen [2014] VSCA 97 (22 May 2014) – Victorian Court of Appeal

    Kyrou AJA at [53]-[54]: ‘Historically perpetrators of family violence were rarely prosecuted. Even when offenders were convicted of such offences, they often received lenient sentences. Fortunately the criminal law now gives greater recognition to the devastating effects of family violence. It has also been recognised that women who are killed by their husband, boyfriend or de facto partner have frequently been assaulted by them many times previously. This makes both specific and general deterrence very important factors in sentencing men who assault their partner.’

    ‘The effects of family violence are now well documented. They are not confined to physical injury. Victims often feel responsible for the violence and ashamed that they were not able to prevent the perpetrator from offending. As occurred in this case, it is common for victims to deny or conceal that their partners have assaulted them until the violence becomes unbearable. This phenomenon was reflected in the behaviour of D, which is described at [5] and [8] to [10] above. Victims who have been dominated, controlled and beaten by their partners over a significant period experience serious and long-lasting psychological trauma. As in the present case, the physical effects of the violence and its erosion of the victim’s confidence can also affect their ability to participate in paid work and have other serious financial effects’.