Frustrations addressing domestic violence through criminal justice system

FRUSTRATED: A domestic violence victim is frustrated with the criminal justice system. Photo: Cheryl Goodenough
FRUSTRATED: A domestic violence victim is frustrated with the criminal justice system. Photo: Cheryl Goodenough

THE criminal justice system has a long way to go to address domestic violence, says Women’s Legal Service acting co-ordinator Angela Lynch.

Ms Lynch was speaking after a 19-year-old man was given probation after pleading guilty to assaulting his ex-partner.

The man faced three charges of assault occasioning bodily harm following incidents over six months in 2014 and 2015.

He was given 18 months probation and had no conviction recorded.

The woman, who is not being named to protect her identity, said she was frustrated at having gone through the process for him to “not even get a slap on the wrist”.

“I went through the process so that he doesn’t do it to the next girl, but now he has no incentive not to do it again,” she said.

“It’s not a deterrent.

“It’s a waste of time to go through all of this for nothing to come out of it,” the woman said.

She told the Redland City Bulletin in September that legal delays hampered efforts to encourage people to report crime.

Ms Lynch said many of the women they saw were frustrated with the criminal justice system.

However, she said it was positive that the police had pursued this case.

“Often there is police inaction,” she said.

“What this woman may not be aware of is that it is positive that police charged him and he had to face court.”

She said women who had experienced domestic violence talked about frustrations with delays and the impact these had on victims and questioned whether an offender was appropriately sentenced or not. 

“There is no doubt we still have a long way to go for the system to properly make perpetrators accountable for their crimes,” she said.

Ms Lynch said the woman was brave to have pursued the case.

“There is not a lot of support for victims,” she said.

Ms Lynch said victims were not part of the legal process, but were regarded as a witness in a court case.

In only some courts victim impact statements provide an opportunity for victims to talk about their experience.

”The criminal process can be quite disempowering for victims,” she said.

She encouraged the Redlands woman to speak to her local member and write to the attorney-general about how she felt about the process.

“It is very helpful for politicians to hear those stories and for her to voice her concerns and frustrations,” she said.

The Women’s Legal Service helpline can be contacted on 1800 957 957.

​If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence call DV Connect Womensline on 1800 811 811, DV Connect Mensline on 1800 600 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.