Saturday Dec 09, 2023

No-shows blight Queensland’s domestic violence court

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Victims didn’t attend at two in three hearings at Queensland’s special domestic violence court, while perpetrators failed to turn up to half of them.

There were 10,603 applications at the Southport Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court between July 2017 and March 2020.

Victims didn’t appear at 61 per cent of hearings, according to an ARTD Consultants report commissioned by the state government.

They were also less likely to show up at the special court compared to regular courts.

The report says their low attendance may be because a larger proportion of court applications are lodged by police.

“Aggrieved were much less likely to appear in person at court when the application is made by police than for private applications,” said the report, released on Friday.

Perpetrators showed up to just over half of the special court’s hearings.

Some accused may have been unaware they were required to turn up, the report said, due to delays or difficulties in serving their applications.

The court issued 13,147 domestic violence orders for 7331 respondents over the three years.

Half those DVOs were protection orders, with the remainder temporary protection orders, varying protection orders and varying temporary protection orders.

About one in 10 orders issued in 2017 had been breached within 21 months.

The report said it took longer for orders issued by the special court to be breached than other courts.

“This difference was evident for all order types, but particularly noticeable for breaches of protection orders,” it said.

“This suggests that while the Southport SDFVCJR does not prevent orders being breached, it may have effect in improving compliance.”

One on 10 of the 778 intervention orders, which require offenders to attend programs to address behaviour, were completed.

However, ARTD said there’s evidence the special court has been keeping victims safer.

That’s because the court takes more police applications, which are finalised more quickly, than regular courts.

“Southport may contribute to keeping victims safer for longer,” it said.

“Further consideration of this practice and research to understand possible contributors to increased safety are warranted.”

Domestic violence support services and practices like separating victims and respondents could also be increasing safety.

It said there was little data on victims’ perceptions of safety, but interviews with service providers indicated it was helping the “aggrieved to feel safer”.

At a cost of $1316 per participant, the ARTD said specialist court was likely to be cost-effective for the government.

It noted that the real cost could be higher for some domestic violence service providers.

“This is not sustainable in the longer term, particularly given the increasing workload of the court,” the report said.



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