estern Australian courts will provide more support to family violence victims than ever before under a new model of dealing with restraining orders and serious assaults which occur in a family setting.
Attorney General Michael Mischin said police, child protection officers and corrective services officers would be on hand to share what they knew about the circumstances that led to the charges, and other information that may shed light on risks to victims.
Mr Mischin said courts would rearrange their case listings so that family violence restraining order breaches and serious assault matters would be heard on one designated day a week to ensure the victim support and other specialists were available.
“For the first time in WA, a mainstream criminal court will have a victim support worker on hand to provide ‘real time’ information and support to victims who have notified breaches of violence restraining orders that are in place to protect them,” he said.
“The new model replaces specialised family violence courts, which did not achieve their aim of reducing reoffending rates and focused more on the offender than the victim.
“A key difference between the two systems is that those who face charges will no longer be able to pick and choose whether they are dealt with in a specialised family violence court and potentially avoid sentencing in return for undergoing treatment.
“While the new model still offers a variety of offender treatment programs, it forces perpetrators to be accountable for their actions while ensuring victim safety is paramount.
“It will also draw on the experience gained from the specialised courts, and allow courts to address problems specific to their locations. For example, it became evident at the Barndimalgu court in Geraldton that involving Aboriginal community members in specialised court responses to family violence was crucial. That will be an important part of the new model in Geraldton.”
The Attorney General said the new model would be initially rolled out at the six metropolitan locations of the existing family violence court sites, as well as the Barndimalgu Court, before being rolled out across all Magistrates courts over time.
Mr Mischin said it was likely that further types of family violence criminal charges would be added to the list, as well as civil lists, in the future.
The Attorney General said the support lists formed part of a comprehensive reform package to better protect family violence victims in Western Australia, which included introducing specific Family Violence Restraining Orders.
“This announcement builds on the hard work by the State Government over the past few years in the area of family violence, which has included $3 million for victim support services, $600,000 to establish a metropolitan legal service for Aboriginal family violence victims and the establishment of the first Western Australian Commissioner for Victims of Crime,” he said.