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Safer Pathway information sharing and the law

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What is the Part 13A information sharing legislation?

Part 13A of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 and the Domestic Violence Information Sharing Protocol (the Protocol) creates exceptions to NSW privacy laws to allow service providers to share information about domestic violence victim-survivors and perpetrators in defined circumstances.

In a domestic and family violence context, information sharing is important to:

  • ensure government agencies and non-government service providers have a complete picture of the level of threat to victim-survivors, including children
  • improve safety of victim-survivors and their children and prevent or reduce death, illness, injury and disability
  • enable agencies to manage risks together
  • hold perpetrators accountable

Which service providers can share information under Part 13A?

Part 13A applies to the following service providers where they provide domestic violence support services:

  • NSW government agencies and statutory bodies, such as public schools, public hospitals and government departments
  • Public sector agencies and private sector persons such as medical, hospital and nursing services, general practitioners, community health services, health education services and welfare services
  • Any organisation funded by a NSW government agency
  • Any non-government support service that has agreed to comply with the standards set out in the Protocol

It is best practice to seek a victim-survivor’s consent, where possible, before sharing information. But there are certain circumstances where it may be unreasonable or impractical to seek a victim-survivor’s consent, and there are limited circumstances where a victim-survivor’s refusal to consent may be overridden.

Part 13A allows service providers to share relevant information if the threat is serious and it is necessary to share information in order for agencies to take action to reduce or prevent this threat. Specifically, where there are child protection concerns and/or if a victim-survivor is at serious threat, service providers can share relevant information without a victim-survivor’s consent in order to lessen or prevent the threat to theirs or others life, health or safety.

When can information be shared under Part 13A?

Service providers may only collect, use and disclose victim-survivors’ and perpetrators’ personal and health information under Part 13A and the Protocol for legitimate purposes, i.e. to:

  • make a referral for domestic violence support services for a victim-survivor
  • provide support services to a victim-survivor
  • prevent or lessen a serious threat to a person’s life, health or safety

Does Part 13A replace child protection mandatory reporting obligations?

No, Part 13A does not replace information sharing practices or processes that may apply in child protection cases. Certain service providers are mandatory reporters under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (CYPCP Act) and their mandatory reporting obligations continue in respect of any information shared under Part 13A.

In cases of domestic violence where children are victims or are affected by domestic violence in the home, prescribed bodies should exchange information under Chapter 16A of the CYPCP Act in the first instance. Chapter 16A prioritises the safety, welfare, and wellbeing of a child or young person over an individual’s right to privacy.

Can information relating to the perpetrator be shared with the victim?

No, the only legitimate purpose for sharing information under Part 13A is to facilitate access to domestic violence support services or to prevent or reduce a serious threat.

Will sexual assault communication privilege be lost?

An amendment in 2019 to Section 98K of the Crimes (Personal and Domestic Violence) Act 2007 ensured that information shared under Part 13A, that would normally attract the protection of the Sexual Assault Communication Privilege (SACP), still remains privileged. So, sharing sexual assault information at a Safety Action Meeting does not mean that information will no longer attract the protection of SACP. However, it’s important to be cautious when sharing sexual assault information at a Safety Action Meeting, as meeting records may be subpoenaed. The usual rules of information sharing still apply. The information must be relevant to the current domestic violence threat. And it must be necessary to share that information in order to lessen the threat to the victim. Workers are encouraged to seek internal guidance from within their agency prior to releasing information that may be subject to SACP advice can also be sought from Legal Aid’s Sexual Assault Communications Privilege Service.

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Last updated: 19 Apr 2021