: Family violence

Family violence

Robert Corr

The Family Violence Royal Commission began a month of hearings on 13 July 2015. Commissioner Marcia Neave has heard from witnesses about the nature of the crimes they have suffered, and also about their experiences in navigating the systems in place to protect and assist them.

On a positive note, Victoria Police and the Dandenong Magistrates’ Court have initiated a pilot program to fast-track intervention order breach matters. After 18 months, the recidivism rate appears to have been significantly reduced.

However, outside the pilot area, some family violence matters may take up to a year to be heard, in part because of outdated computer databases that made it hard to identify family violence matters to be fast-tracked. Similarly, the Commission heard that the Child Protection Unit is struggling to cope with ‘mounds of faxes’ received from police needing to be retyped into the computer system, and often failing to meet the threshold for further action to be taken.

Even where systems have been improved, institutional attitudes to family violence may be problematic. The Commission has heard of court clerks who questioned whether intervention order applications were legitimate. Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius noted that while the code of practice required all complaints of intervention order breaches to be taken seriously, there had nevertheless been ‘a number of clear cases where police have not paid attention to those breaches escalation has occurred and it’s had terrible consequences.’

The Family Violence Royal Commission is due to report by February 2016.

ROBERT CORR is a Legal Studies teacher at the 
Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 214
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