I need to be reassured that I can trust you before I confide in you.
— Victim survivor
Victim survivors told us their experience with the justice system was intimidating, alienating and confusing. They have the burden of navigating the system and their experience is characterised by anxiety, humiliation and frustration.
Our reforms will deliver a justice system that supports, empowers and protects vulnerable women and children. This will involve making changes to:
- the legal framework that supports vulnerable women and children and holds perpetrators accountable
- the work of police, courts, legal assistance services and corrections.
The Support and Safety Hubs will work closely with the justice system to improve outcomes for women and children by:
- providing access to legal assistance
- helping people navigate court and legal processes in the aftermath of violence
- referring victim survivors to support for ongoing legal issues, including family law, debt and tenancy.
Police — a critical first response
Police play an essential role in our front line response to family violence. They are often the 1st point of contact for victim survivors and are crucial to holding perpetrators to account.
To make sure Victoria Police can provide the critical 1st response, we will:
- transform the role of Victoria Police so family violence becomes a core part of their business
- create a new Victoria Police Family Violence Centre of Learning to support police and build their capabilities to respond to family violence.
We will equip police officers in the field with new technology. This includes mobile devices that will give police officers better access to information in the field.
We will also explore how best to use body-worn cameras to capture evidence in family violence investigations.
Police use the Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Report — known as the ‘L17’ — to refer families to:
- specialist family violence services
- Child Protection
- family services
- Men’s Behaviour Change programs.
These forms are currently faxed to each agency, who will not know if the family has been referred to another agency.
We are building a new digital solution for electronic distribution of L17 referrals. This will make referrals more reliable and improve information sharing between agencies.
The new system will be operational by the end of 2016.
Victoria Police Family Violence Centre of Learning
The Centre will provide family violence training to police tailored to their rank, role and career stage.
Through the program, police officers will have an increased awareness of the complex nature and drivers of family violence.
They will also have an improved capability to deal with the volume of family violence cases they respond to.
Police will be able to:
- accurately identify the primary aggressor
- understand and respond to risk
- treat victim survivors with dignity and respect.
Specialist family violence courts
A specialist approach to family violence at court gives victim survivors access to the legal protection and responses necessary for their safety and recovery. Matters are heard by Specialist Magistrates, who will be assisted by a specialist team, including:
- Family Violence Practitioners
- registry staff
- police prosecutors
- Victim and Respondent Support Workers.
court safety and security upgrades
Courts and the services that support them are central to the community’s response to family violence. Courts are where victim survivors seek justice and perpetrators face the consequences of their actions.
We are improving the court environment by increasing the use of remote witness facilities and providing safe waiting spaces. This will make sure victim survivors do not feel exposed by being in the same small space as a perpetrator.
Courts will have capability to work closely with the Support and Safety Hubs. This will make sure victim survivors receive the wrap-around services they need, while the perpetrator is kept in view.
We will build on the success of the existing specialist Family Violence Court Division model currently run in Heidelberg and Ballarat.
Legal assistance will be provided when people need it most, regardless of where the person enters the family violence system.
Legal assistance is essential to ensure fair access to the justice system. It also makes sure people understand their rights and obligations into the future.
People can make more informed choices with access to clear legal information, advice and representation.
Specialist courts and victim-centred justice
Courts and supporting services are central to our response to family violence.
To develop more victim-centred justice responses, we will:
- expand specialist approaches in the justice system, including rolling out additional Specialist Family Violence Courts across the state
- prioritise victim survivor safety in justice system responses by building more safe waiting spaces at courts and making sure legal processes put victim survivor safety first
- ensure immediate support for victim survivors and enhance legal assistance where it’s needed most.
- implement alternative responses
- introduce modern laws so that victim survivors can seek and obtain the protection of the justice system when they need it.