Southport domestic and family violence court trial making inroads
Southport’s dedicated specialist domestic and family violence court has been positively received by victims, perpetrators and agencies during the first three months of the trial.
Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General Director-General David Mackie said, despite an unexpected influx of extra cases during the implementation phase, an interim evaluation report released today noted benefits arising from the trial model.
“The review has found that having the right people in key roles, particularly magistrates experienced in the complexities of domestic and family violence matters, is critical to the court’s success,” Mr Mackie said.
“Having a dedicated magistrate was identified as a major benefit in terms of continuity of matters through the court process and in some cases has meant a same-day service for applications for domestic and family violence orders.
“Victims and perpetrators are benefitting from accessing legal advice and other support services on site and with many matters being dealt with more quickly, it is helping reduce associated stress.
“Service providers report having improved knowledge of each other’s roles and the severity and extent of domestic and family violence is much better understood within the criminal justice system.”
Mr Mackie said the interim evaluation aimed to assess the trial model, report on early progress and identify any issues for consideration for the second half of the trial.
“Other recommendations include providing better and more timely information to parties about the court process, supporting staff due to the often traumatic nature of this type of work, better data sharing between police and courts and improving data collection,” he said.
The Southport trial court was established on 1 September 2015, following recommendations of the Special Taskforce Report on Domestic and Family Violence. An immediate expansion of the trial model was required after the number of domestic and family violence matters increased sharply in the court’s initial months of operation.
An additional magistrate and extra support staff were allocated by November 2015 and Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath extended the trial to 30 June 2017 to allow adequate time to evaluate the impacts and outcomes.
“Southport was chosen as the trial location as the Magistrates Court there deals with the highest proportion of domestic and family violence proceedings in Queensland,” Mr Mackie said.
“It also had an established community-based network of agencies working to provide integrated responses which could help support the work of a specialist court.
“Feedback from this initial review indicates that the specialist court has added value to this existing integrated support service.”
Mr Mackie said the final evaluation into the dedicated court trial would be conducted following an open tender process, with a report expected to be finalised by the end of 2016.
“That review will inform State Government decision-making about whether the trial court model or key aspects of it might be expanded across Queensland,” he said.
The evaluation report can be found at www.justice.qld.gov.au/corporate/justice-initiatives/domestic-and-family-violence-reform.