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June van de Klashorst
Coalition launches Family Violence Policy
24/01/2001 1:44 PM
The Coalition Government’s Family and Domestic Violence policy includes giving the courts more power to deal with repeat perpetrators and making it easier for victims to give evidence.
The policy, ‘Safer Families: Breaking the Cycle of Family and Domestic Violence’, launched today by Attorney General Peter Foss and Women’s Interests Minister June van de Klashorst views family and domestic violence as a crime that must not be tolerated.
“The Evidence Act will be changed so that prior convictions and prior similar behaviour is admissible in family and domestic violence and stalking proceedings,” Mr Foss said.
“Also, the exclusion of hearsay evidence in such proceedings will be relaxed.
“In the short time that the Family Violence Court at Joondalup has been operating, it has been found that perpetrators often have a long history of violence involving successive partners and children.
“The new policy will help break this cycle.
“It also increases counselling services for children who witness family and domestic violence because even if they are not physically assaulted, the trauma stays with them.
“Unfortunately, this is a risk factor in the children becoming victims or offenders later in life.
“The legislation will also be changed so the court can allow the electronic supervision of stalkers.”
Mrs van de Klashorst said the Coalition’s policies were based on the principle that the best way to avoid crime was to tackle its underlying causes.
“It also sees family and domestic violence as not only affecting the couple involved but impacting on the whole family and future generations,” she said.
“Our policies emphasise the strength of the family and it is the family we are supporting in this policy initiative,” she said.
Under other initiatives, the Coalition will:
provide that Police or Justice personnel who receive a formal complaint of family and domestic violence must inform the complainant of any prior record of violence of the alleged offender;
legislate so that an order issued in the Family Court of Western Australia with protective conditions will be capable of automatic registration in the Magistrates Court as a restraining order;
introduce a stricter
Vexatious Proceedings Restriction Act
so that legal proceedings cannot be used as a form of harassment;
amend the process for setting aside restraining orders so that the person protected is not called on to respond unless the court is considering granting leave; and -
Restraining Orders Act
to include mental harassment within the definition of violence.
introduce a Family Violence Court at the Central Law Courts and in due course expand the processes and expertise learned in these pilot courts to all courts;
extend the operation of the Family Violence Court to deal with all forms of stalking;
allow lay advocates to represent parties in Court on Restraining Order Proceedings; and -
further consider and if appropriate, implement WA Law Reform Commission recommendations for non-adversarial proceedings for the Family Violence Court.
continue to provide funding for the regional co-ordination of family and domestic violence services;
develop an Aboriginal Family Violence Strategy to address the needs of the indigenous community; and -
work co-operatively with the Commonwealth Government on the
Partnerships Against Family Violence Taskforce 2.
provide additional non-Government counselling services for victims of family and domestic violence;
provide a further six non-Government services over five years for children witnessing family and domestic violence;
expand counselling services for perpetrators of family and domestic violence, particularly in country areas;
provide more accommodation options for women escaping violence; and -
carry out a survey of victims of stalking to refine the response by all involved in dealing with the crime.
Mrs van de Klashorst said the Government’s approach to tackling family violence had led to a major co-ordinated effort by all agencies.
“The pilot Family Violence Court at Joondalup has been one of the best examples of effective co-ordination,” she said.
“The combination of a specialist magistrate, police prosecutor and support staff has ensured greater accountability of perpetrators and effective monitoring of sanctions and treatment programs.
“The team believes that at least four of their clients could have joined the list of familial homicides but for the court, the support of staff and the programs.”
Mrs van de Klashorst has already announced in the Women’s Policy that the program will extend to a new Family Violence Court at the Central Law Courts - where most family and domestic violence hearings take place.
“Family and domestic violence is being tackled State-wide, with the ideas from the Regional Domestic Violence Committees across the State making Western Australia a safer place for families,” the Minister said.
“Our comprehensive response to these ideas will be more effective in breaking the cycle of family and domestic violence.”
Media contacts: Attorney General: Danielle van Kampen 9321 2222
Women’s Interests Minister: Owen Cole 9481 7810