Western Australian publications 2012 - 2016

 

Family & Domestic Violence Restraining Order Investigation Report 2015

On 1 July 2012, the Ombudsman’s Office commenced a review of family and domestic violence fatalities. Through the review the Ombudsman identified a pattern of cases in which violence restraining orders (VROs) were, or had been, in place between the person who was killed and the suspected perpetrator, or between the person who was killed or the suspected perpetrator and other parties. The Ombudsman also identified a pattern of cases in which VROs were not used, although family and domestic violence had been, or had been recorded as, occurring and state government departments and authorities had been contacted.

Accordingly, the Ombudsman decided to undertake an investigation into issues associated with VROs and their relationship with family and domestic violence fatalities, with a view to determining whether it may be appropriate to make recommendations to any state government department or authority about ways to prevent or reduce family and domestic violence fatalities.

The Ombudsman's report made 54 recommendations to WA Police, the Department of the Attorney-General and the Department for Child Protection and Family Support (DCPFS). Amongst these were a call for more information on VROs to be provided by officers when they are called to domestic violence cases, and methods to make it easier for authorities to serve the orders.

The Ombudsman has found that a range of work has been undertaken by state government departments and authorities to administer their relevant legislative responsibilities, including their responsibilities arising from the Restraining Orders Act 1997. The Ombudsman has found, however, that there is important further work that should be done. This work, detailed in the findings of the report, includes a range of important opportunities for improvement for state government departments and authorities, working individually and collectively, across all stages of the VRO process.

The Ombudsman has also found that Aboriginal Western Australians are significantly overrepresented as victims of family violence, yet underrepresented in the use of VROs. Following from this, the Ombudsman identified that a separate strategy, specifically tailored to preventing and reducing Aboriginal family violence, should be developed. The report states that this strategy should actively invite and encourage the full involvement of Aboriginal people in its development and be comprehensively informed by Aboriginal culture.

The report also refers to research literature that observes that policy implementation issues are a common factor in child death and serious case reviews. For example, reviews similar to this investigation conducted in England have found that such failures are frequently due to a failure to utilise policies, guidelines and procedures, rather than the absence of such procedural guidance. P.36

The report sites a review of child protection systems that identified that significant efforts to develop policy and procedure were not resulting in improvements in responses to children:

Considerable work has been undertaken in the development of detailed frameworks, strategies, protocols and policies over recent years, many of which will bear similarity to recommendations made by this Review. However, many have been ignored, not implemented or partially implemented with no monitoring of implementation or outcomes. This has meant that the child protection system has not seen the incremental advancement that one would expect to see… (p.36)

This finding is consistent with the Ombudsman Office’s finding that, while DCPFS has developed an extensive policy framework, this has not necessarily been fully implemented by DCPFS in its responses to family and domestic violence examined by the Office during the investigation.

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A measure of trust - How WA Police evaluates the effectiveness of its response to family and domestic violence 2015

The Community Development and Justice Standing Committee (the committee) announced an overarching Inquiry into Methods of Evaluating WA Police Performance. On 20 May 2015, the Committee resolved that the second focus area of the inquiry would be how WA Police evaluates whether it is providing adequate protection to the victims of family and domestic violence. The Committee set out to answer three key questions:

  • How does WA Police measure progress in this area?
  • How do others perceive their performance?
  • How should they be measuring their performance to align with best practice?

The Committee also formulated specific terms of reference related to performance measures, victims’ perceptions of police, training, and the use of technology.

In the absence of a comprehensive set of indicators, the committee was only able to assess the performance of WA Police by drawing on the perceptions of victims and service providers. Many victims and domestic violence service representatives informed the committee that police responses to family and domestic violence incidents were inconsistent. Some police officers responded sensitively and appropriately and were considered to be doing excellent work. There were others for which the opposite was true. The committee argued that victims of family and domestic violence need to know that their call will be attended to in a timely, appropriate and consistent manner, regardless of who they are, where they may be and which officer responds.

There was also criticism of the completion of Domestic Violence Incidents Reports (DVIRs), with police allegedly failing to record vital information. The inclusion or absence of these details influences the risk assessment of a case by the Family and Domestic Violence Response Team (FDVRT). The committee also heard from many support services that WA Police does not consistently take breaches of VROs seriously.Given that policing consumes a large proportion of the State budget, the committee argues that there is a strong imperative to ensure that WA Police performance is adequately evaluated. The introduction of the Frontline 2020 policing reforms (which saw the number of specialist domestic violence officers assigned to the Victim Support Units halved, with all officers expected to respond to domestic violence) strengthens this obligation.

According to the committee, WA Police includes a KPI in its annual report which measures the percentage of incidents processed within a particular time-frame. But this does not indicate how satisfied victims were with the response, and hence their willingness to go to police in the future. The independent community satisfaction survey reported on in the WA Police annual report has no specific focus on family violence victims either. The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services, has no specific indicators for family and domestic violence. Likewise, the annual National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing does not have a specific measurement of the experience and perceptions of victims of family and domestic violence.

The Committee expressed concerns regarding the WA Police’s intention to use the monitoring and evaluation framework set out in the Freedom from Fear action plan to guide its own evaluations because, among other things, the monitoring and evaluation framework set out in Freedom from Fear is extremely lacking in terms of specifics, and also provides no timeline for when the “work in progress” will be finalised.

In concluding, the Committee states that police should commit to developing a set of measures within a suitable timeframe; and concludes that specialised, targeted training was the best way of increasing the effectiveness and professionalism of police responses to family and domestic violence.

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2014 Gender Bias Review Report - Women Lawyers of Western Australia

The 2014 20th Anniversary Review of the 1994 Chief Justice's Gender Bias Taskforce Report (2014 Review Report) is the culmination of over 3 years of work investigating and documenting the extent to which gender bias exists in the law and the administration of justice in Western Australia today.This work was undertaken through WLWA's 20th Anniversary Review Project, which commenced in 2011 with a view to delivering the findings in 2014.

 The broad Terms of Reference for the Project were as follows:

1. To review the extent to which the recommendations made in the 1994 Report of the Chief Justice's Taskforce on Gender Bias (the 1994 Report) have been implemented.

2. To the extent that any recommendations in the 1994 Report have not been implemented, to investigate and make recommendations in relation to whether, and if so how, those recommendations may now be implemented.

3. To investigate the extent to which gender bias continues to exist in the law and the administration of justice in Western Australia, and to make recommendations for its elimination.

4. To consult with such government agencies, organisations, groups or persons as the Steering Committee thinks fit in relation to these matters.

The Report reveals that gender bias issues continue to prevent women from participating fully in the community and accessing the law and justice system.

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Law Reform Commission of Western Australia – Enhancing Family and Domestic Violence Laws: Final Report 2014

The Law Reform Commission was asked to examine possible changes to laws regarding family and domestic violence in Western Australia, including the benefits of separate family and domestic violence legislation and the utility and consequences of creating legislation for family and domestic violence restraining orders additional to that covered by the Restraining Orders Act 1997. This report presents the findings and recommendations of the review, following on from a discussion paper and public consultation phase. It discusses: objectives for reform, police response to family and domestic violence, family and domestic violence protection orders, criminal justice responses, specialist family violence courts, interaction of violence restraining order proceedings with the Family Court, victim rights, criminal injuries compensation, and other legal responses. In summary, the Commission recommends that a new Family and Domestic Violence Protection Order Act be enacted in Western Australia.

Law Reform Commission of Western Australia – Enhancing Family and Domestic Violence Laws: Final Report 2014