The increased prevalence of family violence in Victoria has been an ongoing challenge for both Victoria Police and the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, with the Crime Statistics Agency of Victoria reporting in 2019 that 45% of all crimes against people were in some way family violence-related. Authorities have also seen a corresponding increase in the breaches of Intervention Orders and Family Violence Safety Notices, a trend which has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, as Victoria Police was faced with a record number of callouts to family violence incidents.
Both Victoria Police and the Courts have been exploring steps to address these growing concerns, and to adopt the key recommendations made as a result of the Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2015.
Tuesday, 14 December 2021, marked the official opening of the new Specialist Family Violence Court at Frankston, deeming the Court the fifth of its kind in Victoria.
The Specialist Family Violence Courts seek to prevent the occurrence and escalation of family violence, to provide support to victims of family violence, ensure the safety of individuals and families who may be affected by family violence, and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
In order to achieve these objectives, the Frankston Court has improved its every day processes and engagement procedures by promoting collaboration and cooperation between various agencies, organisations and services, including Victoria Police, Victoria Legal Aid, Peninsula Community Legal Centre, and specialist family violence support services such as The Salvation Army and The Orange Door.
This collaborative approach seeks to ensure that victims of family violence are supported and guided throughout the process, educated with respect to their rights and the assistance available to them, and have the opportunity to seek legal advice and/or representation prior to the hearing of their matter.
Further, the Court experience and the way in which matters are heard in Frankston has also evolved. Extensive renovations were conducted on the Frankston Court, providing for separate entrances to the Court for victims and perpetrators, child-friendly facilities, private interview rooms, secure waiting areas, and the opportunity to participate in Court Hearings from behind a privacy screen, or electronically.
Magistrates and Court staff will also be required to undertake additional, ongoing and specialised family violence training to ensure a consistent approach to managing family violence matters.
The Victorian State Government has also confirmed that two further Specialist Family Court Courts are in the process of implementation at Bendigo and Wyndham.
The State Government expects that further Specialist Family Violence Courts will be rolled out at Geelong, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Latrobe Valley, Melbourne, Ringwood and Sunshine in the near future.
It is ultimately hoped that the implementation of the Specialist Family Violence Courts will reduce, and in turn eliminate, family violence and promote a violence-free society.
If you or someone you know is suffering from family violence, it is important to seek professional assistance as soon as possible, or if the matter is urgent, immediately call Victoria Police on 000.
If you would like to obtain legal advice regarding what steps you can take to protect yourself and loved ones from family violence, please do not hesitate to contact Coulter Legal to arrange a 30-minute initial consultation free of charge with a lawyer in our Family & Relationship Law team, to ensure that you are supported and guided throughout the Court process.
Our lawyers at Coulter Legal regularly support and appear for victims of family violence, including in the Specialist Family Violence Courts around Victoria, and can provide sensitive and confidential advice to guide you through the process, including via remote communication if necessary.
Get started with our easy online form, send us an email or simply give us a call.