The latest in a series of specialist courts being rolled out across the metropolitan area to help family violence offenders break the cycle of abuse has opened in Armadale.
Attorney General Jim McGinty said Armadale was the third of five Family Violence Courts to be established across Perth as part of an $11.5million project to counter family violence.
“Initial results from the Joondalup Family Violence Court show that almost 90 per cent of offenders who took part in the court’s specialist program had not committed further family violence offences after two years,” Mr McGinty said.
“Family violence is an unfortunate reality for too many families in Western Australia.
“This new court in Armadale will offer offenders the chance to stop their recurring violent behaviour and help protect their families.”
The court is available to offenders who have pleaded guilty in a magistrate’s court and agree to take part in rehabilitation programs designed to address their behaviour.
Offenders are stringently case-managed by a team of staff from the Family Violence Service, Community Justice Services, WA Police, Department of Child Protection and other program providers.
At the end of the process, the offenders’ progress is assessed by the team before they return to court for sentencing by a magistrate.
“These courts are not a soft option,” the Attorney General said.
“The offender will still be convicted and sentenced by a magistrate but successful completion of a rehabilitation program will be taken into account at the time of sentencing.
“If offenders do not meet the strict rehabilitation conditions, the court can terminate the program and this will be considered in the final sentence handed down.
“When offenders successfully complete the program and change their behaviour, there are significant benefits for family members, friends and the entire community.”
Mr McGinty said that like the Fremantle and Midland family violence courts, the Armadale court will work closely with local Aboriginal services and agencies to ensure Aboriginal people can access appropriate services.
“Aboriginal people are about 45 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence than non-Aboriginal people,” he said.
“It is hoped that these courts will be a place for victims to turn to and for offenders to understand their behaviour and take steps to better their lives.”
The family violence courts are part of the State Government’s focus on reducing family violence in WA.
In 2004, the State Government introduced new laws which made it easier and safer for people to report domestic violence. Since then, there has been a marked increase in the number of cases reported to police.
Prior to the changes, there were 11,000 reported incidents of domestic violence per year in WA. In 2006, there were 22,205 reported offences, of which 53 per cent were prosecuted.
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