RESPONSE TO FOUR CORNERS FROM WESTERN AUSTRALIA POLICE JULY 2012

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1 RESPONSE TO FOUR CORNERS FROM WESTERN AUSTRALIA POLICE JULY 2012 Western Australia Police is committed to protecting victims of family and domestic violence and to holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. It is also committed to continually improving how it responds to this community issue at all levels of the organisation. Family and domestic violence is a complex and challenging issue that cannot be solved by any one agency working in isolation. WA Police recognises that effective communication and collaboration with partner agencies and support groups is essential. Acts of family and domestic violence can take many forms and are often endured by victims and their children over long periods of time before they seek help. Last financial year, WA Police attended more than 42,000 incidents of family and domestic violence across the State. WA Police has a pro-arrest, pro-charge, pro-prosecution approach to intervention at family and domestic violence incidents where prime facie evidence exists that a criminal offence has been committed. This stance is not dependent upon a complaint being made by the victim. FAMILY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE THE WA POLICE APPROACH WA Police has implemented a range of initiatives in response to family and domestic violence including, but not limited to: In 2003, WA Police established what is now known as the Family Violence State Coordination Unit in response to the Gordon Inquiry which called for the establishment of an effective and integrated police response to family violence and child abuse. The Unit s prime role is to continually enhance the agency s approach to family and domestic violence through improvements to policy and procedures. Officers from the Unit research, collate and analyse information to identify trends and develop strategies. The Unit works closely with District Family Protection Coordinators and external government and non-government organisations located in each police district, as well as broader victim advisory groups.

2 In 2009, the family and domestic violence co-location model was set up in the Metropolitan area and expanded to include Regional WA in Each police district now has WA Police Family Protection Coordinators working alongside senior field workers from the Department for Child Protection. To advance victim support, a small number of police sub-districts also have station-based family and domestic violence advocates. This is a non-government service that offers a practical and therapeutic response not provided by police. The Family Violence State Coordination Unit conducts reviews of each police district s response from the front line and initial scene attendance to the investigation and prosecution of offenders. The police district s interagency collaboration is also examined. These reviews improve the overall response within the District, and on occasions lead to improvements to the agency s policy and procedures when best practice is identified. In November 2010 WA Police amended its policy for responding to families affected by repeated family and domestic violence incidents or high risk cases. The Recidivist Case File Management system was made fully electronic to ensure information was available to police state wide. Enhanced recruit and in-service training includes presentations from victims of family and domestic violence and women s refuge centres. Recruits also undertake scenario training, using actors, to begin the process of learning how to deal with volatile domestic violence incidents. Across the Metropolitan area, Family Protection Coordinators also work closely with specialised Family Violence Courts in a number of locations to help address the causal factors of an offender s violent behaviour. The aim is to break the cycle of family violence, again with a strong emphasis on victim safety. Tragically, domestic violence can result in homicide (see Annexure 1, page 5). WA Police now critically examines the circumstances leading up to domestic homicides (see Annexure 2, page 6) to identify whether agency policy and procedure has been followed and whether all the statutory requirements have been met. These reviews are used to improve agency policy and procedures and further refine training. THE DEATH OF MS ANDREA PICKETT A review was conducted into the tragic death of Ms Andrea Pickett in North Beach on January 12, The review identified practices that needed to improve the way police responded to family and domestic violence incidents. Page 2

3 The review report recommended that: Investigations were allocated to a specific officer and inquiries commenced at the earliest opportunity to ensure victim safety; All witnesses and nominated persons of interest were interviewed and the investigation was consistent with the agency s investigative practices; Supervisors review all family and domestic violence incidents and where prime facie evidence exists offenders are charged with the relevant criminal offences; Police are advised of all persons released on parole so that all officers have access to the latest information; and There is to be an increased supply of duress alarms. Since the report, WA Police has implemented all of the recommendations. These improvement to policy and procedure were acknowledged by the State Coroner during the inquest into Mrs Pickett s death; In the context of the raft of actions being taken by WA Police to address these problems and the identified deficiencies in the various investigations in this case, I do not propose to make any recommendations in relation to the WA Police involvement. That said, the State Coroner s Report provides the basis for further improvements to the way WA Police, and others, respond to family and domestic violence, particularly when there are significant risk factors at play. THE DEATH OF MS SAORI JONES A review of the circumstances surrounding the December 2010 homicide of Ms Saori Jones identified deficiencies in the way police responded to welfare concerns raised by staff from a local refuge. A report into the matter led to important changes to operational policy and procedures and a number of other related actions were taken including the following: Refuge workers and people working for family and domestic violence related organisations are now considered a person in authority when making missing person reports to police. The consequence is that officers are now dispatched to conduct inquiries into the whereabouts of the missing person and a Missing Person Report is completed. Before the Missing Person Report can be finalised, police officers must sight and speak to the person to verify their safety. The Family Violence State Coordination Unit has met with the Women s Council for Domestic Violence Services WA and representatives from Ruah Refuge who dealt with Ms Saori Jones to explain the new protocols with regards to any future reports made to police of this nature. Page 3

4 The tragic death of Ms Saori Jones is now an important case study for in-service training courses for uniformed officers and detectives. This is to heighten awareness of the risks and to ensure appropriate responses to welfare concerns and reports of missing persons, particularly where there has been a history of family and domestic violence. WA Police has a comprehensive policy on family and domestic violence and significant improvements have been made over recent years as a consequence of agency learning and reviews of critical incidents. WA Police remains strongly committed to victim safety and to working alongside other agencies and non-government organisations to reduce the potential for domestic homicides. Karl J O Callaghan APM Commissioner of Police 20 July 2012 Page 4

5 ANNEXURE 1 HOMICIDES INVOLVING FAMILY AND DOMESTIC RELATIONSHIPS Year Deaths to date ANNEXURE 2 DEFINITION Family and domestic relationship as defined in the Restraining Orders Act Term used: family and domestic relationship (1) In this Act family and domestic relationship means a relationship between 2 persons (a) who are, or were, married to each other; Page 5

6 (b) (c) who are, or were, in a de facto relationship with each other; who are, or were, related to each other; (d) one of whom is a child who (e) (f) (i) (ii) ordinarily resides, or resided, with the other person; or regularly resides or stays, or resided or stayed, with the other person; one of whom is, or was, a child of whom the other person is a guardian; or who have, or had, an intimate personal relationship, or other personal relationship, with each other. (2) In subsection (1) other personal relationship means a personal relationship of a domestic nature in which the lives of the persons are, or were, interrelated and the actions of one person affects, or affected, the other person; related, in relation to a person, means a person who (a) is related to that person taking into consideration the cultural, social or religious backgrounds of the 2 persons; or (b) is related to the person s (i) (ii) spouse or former spouse; or de facto partner or former de facto partner. Page 6

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