THE Baird Government’s announcement today of a disclosure scheme, which would allow women the right to be warned about their partners’ violent histories is a positive potential initiative but it fails to deal with the root causes of domestic violence, says one of Sydney’s leading family law advocates.
“Whilst the scheme is an important reform, which has had positive outcomes in other jurisdictions like in the UK, it does not focus on initiatives to prevent and respond to domestic violence,” said Louise Cassar who is a Family Law Director at Levitt Robinson Solicitors.
“The community’s perception of domestic violence and the procedure dealing with it need immediate and substantial changes.”
Ms Cassar said the community and governments should be focused upon reframing domestic violence for what it really is, a criminal act which should be dealt with under the criminal law – attracting criminal sanctions instead of the current scheme.
“The Apprehended Violence Order Scheme does not deter further violence against women,” Ms Cassar said citing a 1997 survey into the effectiveness of ADVO’s which revealed that more than 90 per cent of victims reported that orders made had been beneficial and left them feeling much safer, however 78 per cent found that the orders made were subsequently breached, and only 36 per cent of those subsequent breaches were reported to police.
“Another 1993 study, which polled 300 women one year after they had obtained a civil protection order against their violent partner, found 60 per cent of them had suffered some form of abuse during the protection period,” Ms Cassar said.
“These studies and other research show that while protection orders make victims feel safer, they have limited effect in deterring further violence.
“It’s for this reason, in my opinion, that criminal prosecution is a more effective option than the current procedure.”
In 2005, Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission published a comprehensive report by the then Director of Research and Prevention, Dr Paul Mazerolle, into policing of domestic violence in Queensland.
“While Dr Mazerolle did not conclude that the threat of being arrested provided an effective deterrent in all cases, one of the key recommendations of his report was that police should proceed with criminal charges where sufficient evidence exists,” Ms Cassar said.
“Until we recognise domestic violence for what it is in reality, and treat it as such, any reforms to the current process will, unfortunately, only be a band aid solution.
“The emphasis should be on a preventative approach and if people do not respond to a preventative approach then then they should be prosecuted under the full force of the criminal law.”