By EMILY MOULTON
THE body charged with reviewing WA’s domestic violence laws says separate legislation should be created for protection orders, to highlight the seriousness of the crime.
But the Law Reform Commission states that a separate law for all family and domestic violence matters would be inappropriate and unworkable.
The report, tabled in parliament this morning, made 73 recommendations.
The LRC says a new protection order act “would send a strong message” to the community and legal system that family and domestic violence was being treated seriously.
However the body did not think WA should have a separate law for all domestic and family violence matters.
Attorney General Michael Mischin asked the commission to review laws surrounding domestic and family violence last year.
Figures from last July showed only a third who breached a VRO three times or more were jailed.
This was despite the Barnett Government promising that repeat offenders would only escape jail under exceptional circumstances.
Anti-domestic violence campaigners have also raised concerns that the courts only appear to grant restraining orders after an offence has been committed.
The commission said a Family and Domestic Violence Protection Order Act should be developed to “enhance knowledge and understanding of family and domestic violence” in the legal system and the community.
The LRC consulted with 169 individual and agency stakeholders and presented its findings and recommendations to Mr Mischin last week.
In the report, the LRC recommended clearer definitions of what constitutes domestic violence and whether the term could be extended to cover other offences such as cyber-stalking.
While the LRC wanted to ensure family and domestic violence was treated as a criminal offence under the Criminal Code, it did not think separating DV issues from the criminal code would be appropriate.
“Although a small number of stakeholders argued that removing family and domestic violence criminal offences from the Criminal Code would mark the seriousness of this type of offending, the Commission disagreed and expressed the view that this approach is more likely to have the opposite effect,” the report says.
“In determining that separate wide-ranging family and domestic violence legislation is inappropriate, the Commission also took into account that such legislation would be so lengthy as to be unworkable as a single code and that no other Australian jurisdiction adopts this approach.”
Mr Mischin said it was likely the report, entitled ‘Enhancing Family and Domestic Violence Laws’, would lead to reforms in the way WA’s legal system enforced domestic violence laws.
“Following the 2013 State Election, one of my first priorities was to consider sweeping changes to the way domestic violence victims are treated in the justice system,” he said.
“I asked the commission to examine current legislation and recommend potential reforms that would enhance the interests of domestic violence victims and ensure they are protected and promoted in State law.
“The commission has made wide-ranging recommendations on how to better protect victims and maximise their safety; ensure the swift and just handling of family violence matters by police and the courts; and to hold offenders accountable for their violent actions.
“I will consider its findings in detail and develop a package of reforms to take to Cabinet.”
The report also found there were more than 45,000 domestic violence incidents reported in 2012.
Originally published as Protect domestic violence victims