Do you need to file an intimidation charge in NSW? In family law disputes, intimidation often arises from the already heightened emotions and tensions between parties. Courts consider the context of the family relationship and history when assessing whether behaviour constitutes intimidation.

Actions that might not qualify as intimidation in a general context, like raised voices or strong words, could be considered intimidating within a family dynamic due to pre-existing power imbalances or vulnerabilities. Here are some common types of intimidation:

  1. Direct Threats: Threats of domestic and personal violence, or instilling a person to fear physical or mental harm towards any member of the family, including children and pets. In short, direct threats may include any action that causes a reasonable apprehension of injury.
  2. Coercive Control: Controlling behaviours aimed at influencing or dominating the other party, making the person to fear for his or her safety. This can include financial control, isolation, or manipulation.
  3. Harassment and Stalking: Excessive communication or unwanted contact, intended to cause fear or distress. This can range from repeated phone calls, text messages, or other technologically assisted means to physical stalking.
  4. Interference with Parenting: Actions aimed at preventing or obstructing one parent from having contact with their children, often through manipulation or threats.

Any of these types of intimidation sound familiar? If so, read on to learn more about intimidation charges in NSW and how to file for one.

Stalking and Intimidation

Ever wondered what constitutes stalking or intimidation? Here's a table that explains the two:

Stalking Intimidation
Stalking, covered by section 8 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007, involves:

– Following, watching, or approaching someone at their home, work, or places they frequent for leisure.
– Repeated unwanted communication: Sending gifts, letters, or messages (including private Facebook messages or constant SMS) despite the recipient's lack of response or desire to communicate.
Intimidation, defined in section 7 of the same Act, covers:

– Harassing or molesting behaviour.
– Approaches (including phone calls, text messages, emails, etc.) that cause fear for someone's safety.
– Any conduct causing a reasonable fear of injury, violence/domestic violence, or damage to someone or their property.

Does the Victim Have to Be Scared?

No. The prosecution is not required to prove that the person alleged to have been intimidated actually feared physical or mental harm. This also applies to causing fear for someone the victim has a domestic relationship with. In determining whether a person's conduct amounts to intimidation, a court may also have regard to any pattern of violence in the person's behaviour beyond reasonable doubt.

Stalking and intimidation can be terrifying, making you fear for yourself or someone you love. The good news is, it's illegal in NSW. Section 13 of the Crimes Act 2007 state penalties for this offence. The maximum penalty for an stalking or intimidation charge in NSW may include imprisonment for 5 years or 50 penalty units, or both.

Check our family violence and domestic violence factsheet here:

Intimidation Charge in NSW: Case Study

The case of Roskam and Roskam [2018] was a parenting proceeding between Mr. and Ms. Roskam regarding their three children. The mother seeks sole parental responsibility and supervised time for the father. On the other hand, the father seeks shared parental responsibility and unsupervised time with the children.

Both parents accuse each other of being a risk to the children's emotional well-being. The mother alleges that the father has a history of drug use and family violence. The father alleges that the mother is a narcissist and a psychopath. The parents were married in 2006 and separated in 2012. The children have been living with the mother since the separation.

Intimidation Instances

In this case related to intimidation charges in NSW, the mother details a tumultuous relationship with the father, marked by his drug dependency, mood swings, and mental health issues. The father's cannabis use, conducted in secrecy since 2003, resulted in periods of silence, communication refusal, and fasting when the mother pleaded for him to stop.

She went to great lengths to pacify him, reassuring him during episodes of moodiness and keeping the children away. The father's prolonged absences, coupled with changing his banking details to restrict the mother's access to funds, added to the strain. Moreover, the mother claimed that the father made threats of self-harm, leaving suicide notes.

Despite her encouragement, he consistently refused support from Lifeline. The father's promises to quit drugs were followed by relapses after trips to Asia for detoxification. Regarding the father's involvement with the children, the mother asserted it was minimal, particularly in their infancy, and highlighted instances of him isolating himself when overwhelmed.

The father's trip to Asia in 2008, a week after the birth of their second child, left the mother to care for both children alone during her recovery from a caesarean birth. The father's affidavit highlighted his commitment to spending time with the children. However, his admission to using marijuana as a self-medication tool and feeling controlled in the relationship raised concerns.

His attempts to "break free" and refusals to seek support for his drug use contributed to a volatile dynamic. Instances of intimidation included challenges to the mother's financial access, secretive drug use, and threats of self-harm. The parents officially separated in 2012 when the father left the family home due to his resumed illicit drug use.

The mother insisted on his return only after completing a drug rehabilitation program, emphasising the severity of the situation. Throughout the case, the father's behaviour reflects a pattern of intimidation and control, contributing to the breakdown of the relationship. Ultimately, the court granted sole custody to the mother while ensuring supervised contact with the father to preserve their relationship.

Defences Against an Intimidation Charge in NSW

Is it possible to defend yourself against a stalking or intimidation charge NSW? Yes. Here are possible legal defences:

1. Insufficient Evidence: Questioning the prosecution's case by highlighting weaknesses in witness accounts, circumstantial evidence, or lack of intent.

2. Legitimate Reasons: Justifying the accused's actions as normal behaviour due to shared workplaces, events, or professional obligations. Imagine two colleagues who frequently contact each other for work projects. If one is accused of stalking based on these interactions, the defence could argue their communication is purely work-related and falls within the bounds of their shared professional duties.

3. General Defences: In some cases of intimidation charges in NSW, broader legal principles outside the realm of specific stalking laws can be invoked. These general criminal law defences offer additional avenues for the defence to explore:

  • Necessity: This defence applies when the accused committed an act to avert imminent danger to themselves or others, even if it meant infringing on someone's privacy. This could involve contacting someone to warn them of a genuine threat, which, while appearing like intrusive behaviour, serves a larger purpose of preventing harm.
  • Duress: This defence applies when the accused was pressured or coerced into stalking actions under the threat of committing a domestic violence offence or harm. Proving that the accused lacked free will and acted under someone else's control becomes crucial in such cases.

Remember: The viability of these defences hinges on the specific circumstances of the case, the strength of the evidence presented, and the skill of the legal representation.

Who Should I Contact for Stalking or Intimidation Matters?

If you're facing the unsettling reality of stalking or intimidation, finding the right support is crucial. At JB Solicitors, we understand the emotional turmoil and legal complexities these situations present. Our dedicated team of experienced family lawyers has a proven track record of protecting individuals and achieving positive outcomes in court.

We offer comprehensive legal services, including securing restraining orders, navigating custody arrangements, and pursuing legal action against perpetrators.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.