Loddon Campaspe CLC supports the concerns raised by Dr Chris Atmore from the Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic.) in The Age in relation to streamlining the Family Violence Intervention Order system.
We agree that the draft proposal to streamline the system may reduce the potential for courts to hold men accountable for their violence against women. And we fear that the proposal will undermine the work undertaken in recent years to hold perpetrators of violence against women accountable through an integrated justice system.
Not only will men be less likely to be held accountable, they (and women) may also be deprived of access to information and referrals provided by courts to appropriate services, for example Men’s Behaviour Change programs.
We are on record for highlighting the current lack of security in many courts, including Bendigo and Kyneton Courts. (See Courts and police leave women exposed, The Age, 22 April 2013.) And our legal practice has assisted many women who have been grateful when the perpetrator of violence against them has not attended court due to their fear. However, many of the women assisted by our service want men to be held accountable for their behaviour and for their behaviour to be monitored. Notwithstanding the security shortcomings at courts, the court process may be one of the few opportunities women have for men to access services that will monitor their behaviour.
The current proposal from the Department of Justice also seeks an expansion of the Family Violence Safety Notice system. Safety Notices are civil, not criminal, in nature. We fear that by making it easier for police to issue a Safety Notice that they may be less inclined to issue criminal proceedings that would hold men accountable through the justice system for their violence against women.
Further, the extension of the Safety Notice time period by five days may prolong the period of risk faced by affected family members. Women are at greater risk after relationship breakdown or separation. Hence it is essential that family violence matters come to court in a timely matter and that men are held accountable for their choice to use violence.