New tool to fight domestic violence

Ruth Pollard
November 26, 2008

A RISK-ASSESSMENT tool soon to be introduced will help frontline workers better evaluate women and children's risk of domestic violence, allowing experts to intervene earlier to prevent deaths and injuries.

That, combined with recently introduced domestic violence evidence kits and a two-day training course for all police, would improve police responses in one of the most difficult parts of the job, said Superintendent Rod Smith, the domestic violence spokesman for NSW Police.

"We will never prevent every single death from domestic violence, but we have that ethical and moral and legal responsibility to take action, to get involved in domestic violence and try to eradicate it where we can."

Domestic violence cases make up 35 per cent of police work, but women who report violence, and the agencies who support them, often criticise police for their poor understanding of the issue.

Mr Smith said the training that all police were required to attend would better equip them to deal with the "complex, complicated, difficult scenario" of domestic violence. It dealt with apprehended violence orders and focused on stalking, harassment and intimidation.

Another important advance was the introduction of domestic violence evidence kits, to ensure much more evidence was collected at the scene and used in court, rather than relying on the victim as the primary witness and source of evidence.

"The [victim] is already in a pressure situation, so if we can take some of that pressure off by taking responsibility for the investigation and the presentation of evidence, that is what we will do," he said.

NSW Health is working with police to develop a tool that can be used across all services to assess the risk of further domestic and family violence where it has been identified.

A spokeswoman for NSW Health said: "As women often do not disclose domestic violence unless they are asked, routinely asking women about domestic violence has been progressively incorporated into health assessments in antenatal, early childhood health, women's health, alcohol and other drugs services and mental health services across NSW since 2001."

The risk assessment tool would be trialled in two locations in NSW early next year, she said.

The Minister for Women, Verity Firth, said that tomorrow the Government would announce amendments to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act that would enable police who seek a provisional apprehended violence order on behalf of a woman to automatically confiscate any weapons and suspend the perpetrator's licence to own a weapon.

"I know there are a lot of problems with the apprehended violence orders and the enforcement of AVOs," Ms Firth said.

"However, we have allocated 40 new domestic violence liaison officers to the police as well as nine senior regional co-ordinators to deal specifically with domestic violence."

The Government yesterday announced an extra $2.9 million in funding for non-government organisations dealing with family violence, on top of the $40 million over four years announced in February.

But the Opposition spokeswoman on women, Pru Goward, said the Government had missed an opportunity to commit to a domestic violence homicide review that would help guide policy in the area.