ACT News

ACT domestic violence deaths set for review

Closed investigations into deaths linked to domestic violence will be reviewed as the ACT government moves to drive down the often silent suffering of victims. 

Attorney-General Simon Corbell will announce on Saturday a review into domestic and family violence deaths, to be conducted by the Domestic Violence Prevention Council.

The terms of reference, reporting deadline and involvement of victims' families are yet to be finalised, but the council's executive director, Marcia Williams, said a time frame of about 12 months could be expected.  

Experts cannot say exactly how many deaths are linked to domestic violence in the territory, with some resulting from homicides and other causes. 

The ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Service estimates there were 72 deaths between 1988 and April 2012.

The review's findings are expected to lead to reforms that could reduce the number of deaths, including through sharing information by courts, law enforcement and social service agencies. 

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Statistics to be considered by the review will depend on the number of years considered and whether criminal or coronial matters have been finalised.

"We know there have been some other jurisdictions that have done this in the past and they've led to some very good responses and understandings," Ms Williams said. 

"Some of the council members ... do keep statistics about their service users and have recently reported that of the deaths in the ACT, quite a high number were clients of theirs who had reported domestic violence issues."

Ms Williams said recent media reporting of domestic violence cases, including the death of 11-year-old Victorian schoolboy Luke Batty at the hands of his father, showed the public was sometimes unaware of the domestic violence.

The review comes in the same month that Prime Minister Tony Abbott launched the second stage of the national plan to reduce violence against women and children.  

"A robust and independent picture" would emerge from the review to help inform the government about structures and responses to the problem, Mr Corbell said. 

''The review will consider actual cases of domestic and family violence that led to the death of a victim to determine what can be done to prevent the violence and what warning signs we need to look for," he said in a statement. 

''The findings of the review may also help to identify issues that point to the need for legislative, policy, practice and service changes across government and the community sector.

''I look forward to updates from the Domestic Violence Prevention Council on the progress of this important work.''

Mr Corbell said he expected more effective strategies to meet the objectives of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 and the ACT's own Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Strategy. 

''Domestic and family violence has a very human cost, claiming the lives of more than 100 people in Australia every year, and the government and community needs to build a strong foundation to ensure that the loss of life ends," he said.

Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey said the review would help women and children in the ACT remember those who have died through domestic violence. 

"The impact on the community is enormous,'' he said. ''In Australia, an average of one woman is killed every week by a current or ex-partner. 

''This review will provide a unique opportunity to identify government and community strategies for preventing domestic violence and related deaths in the ACT. 

"This is a proactive approach to reducing the risk of further domestic violence-related tragedies.'' 

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