The WA Government is introducing a new type of restraining order later this year to specifically address violence that occurs within a family environment.
The number of reported incidents in 2012 was 45,000, an increase of two and a half times in the last ten years.
Attorney-General Michael Mischin said the Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO) was designed to reduce the onus on the victim to provide evidence of intimidating or controlling behaviour.
“Currently under the Restraining Orders Act 1997, a person can apply for a Violence Restraining Order (VRO) for family violence or other non-family personal violence situations or a Misconduct Restraining Order to restrain the misconduct of a non-family member,” he said.
“The new FVROs will be a distinct third category of orders and will adopt a more modern definition of family violence.”
Liza Harvey, Police Minister said: “Family violence is unfortunately core business for police and the courts, with applications for restraining orders being made in 31 per cent of cases recorded by police in 2012.”
“Family violence starts usually with the partner controlling every aspect of a woman’s life, the banking, who they speak to, where they go,” she said.
“To be able to intervene at that point before that control, coercion and intimidation escalates to violence is a step in the right direction, a huge step for these women who are trapped in those relationships. We’re sending a message to the courts that we would prefer them to err on the side of the victim and err on the side of granting one of the violence restraining orders in these scenarios because they do protect women.”
The reforms are designed to enable authorities, including police, to work together more closely to identify those at risk.
Many Family Lawyers believe that the reforms need to go one step further – to actually take the FVRO from the Magistrate’s Court and have them dealt with in the Family Court of Western Australia in the context of a Family Law separation. For separated people trying to rebuild their lives, the prospect of dealing with cases in two courts can be very daunting, not to mention expensive.
There is certainly significant support from lawyers and from separated people for this and perhaps this needs to be the next step in the reform process.