Labor promises specialist domestic violence courts if elected

October 12, 2014

Kirsty Needham State Political Editor


A specialist court for domestic violence and sexual assault cases would be established by a NSW Labor government, deputy opposition leader Linda Burney will announce on Sunday.

The election commitment aims to reduce the trauma experienced by victims going to court by employing specialist judges and lawyers, designing courtrooms to ensure safety and privacy, and allowing victims to give evidence remotely.

Labor has committed to trials in metropolitan Sydney, Wollongong and the Hunter.

“We have a massive under-reporting rate in sexual assault, and half the conviction rate of any other area of criminality,” Karen Willis, executive officer of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, said.


Ms Willis undertook a Churchill Fellowship to study the operation of specialist domestic violence courts in Canada, South Africa, Britain and the United States. She believes this approach could increase the reporting of assaults and conviction rates in Australia.

Delays in reporting a sexual assault in NSW are often interpreted by courts as “making up a story”.

“We know with trauma, that victims go numb and shut down,” she said.

Ms Willis says  70 per cent of sexual assaults are committed by a friend, family member or colleague, and a third in a social setting, such as a date. Because of this, grooming tactics used by offenders prior to an attack should also be examined in court.

“There needs to be a rethink of how these crimes are prosecuted, what evidence is provided and what the jury considers. The best way to do this is a specialist court,” Ms Willis said.

Ms Burney said domestic violence was a national crisis and the rate of these assaults was rising in NSW, reaching 27,000 last year – or 74 a day.

“Labor will make reducing domestic violence a top priority in government, and this includes protecting and supporting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice as quickly as possible and in a way which minimises trauma to the victim,” she said.

Labor’s women’s spokeswoman Sophie Cotsis said every woman and child had the right to be safe in their own home: “Many other jurisdictions around the world have different specialist domestic violence and sexual assault courts operating at the moment – we need to see this implemented in NSW.”

In South Africa, magistrates undergo specialist training to sit on sexual assault courts where victims can give evidence by CCTV, the court is closed for cross examination and there are separate waiting rooms and entries for the accused and the victim.

There are 200 specialist courts in the US, 100 in Britain and 50 in Canada. Labor wants an expert committee to determine the best model for a domestic violence and sexual assault court in NSW.

Specialist courts for drug-related crime have been used in NSW for 15 years, with research showing people sentenced through these courts less likely to reoffend.

The Hunter recorded 2700 cases of domestic violence and 1100 sexual or indecent assaults in the past year.

The Illawarra recorded 1043 domestic violence cases and 450 sexual or indecent assaults.

Ms Willis said that, instead of prison sentences, a “more clever” approach to preventing repeat offences would be court-mandated behaviour change programs.

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3 thoughts on “Labor promises specialist domestic violence courts if elected

  1. AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRACY ONLINE PARTY, DEMOCRACY 2.0 THE UPGRADE Only together we can over run the ALP LNP Cults with our own direct democratic party, to make the changes we want and need for our children and our children’s children.
    Change won’t happen unless we make it happen, we have to do it together as one, unless we do we will relive history.
    Point is laws are only any good if they protect us and our rights, freedoms and liberties, laws are only good if they are upheld at all times equally.
    It is obvious to most that the government and pathetic judiciary, our employees do not up hold the law nor the spirit of the law, because they hold us in contempt and this is why we are here to be a political force to deal with them, because they believe we work for them, and in reality we do, we work and pay them tax an they hold us in contempt..

  2. Sounds exciting. Maybe Labor and the new domestic courts can encourage more women to “make up”, I mean report more and more episodes of “domestic violence” so that even more domestic violence courts can be created. It’s a win/win situation. It must be noted that only women should be allowed to bring prosecutions in these courts. After all, it is scientific fact that ONLY MEN CAUSE VIOLENCE. Everyone knows that women are sugar and spice and all things nice. All these men out there must be punished, punished, punished, punished. However, if we lock them up, they won’t be able to pay their child support. Perhaps, the new create punishment can be increasing their child support payments. After all what would men need money for? They are PIGS. If they have enough to eat they should be grateful. All their hard earned cash should go to the people who truly matter, women and children. MEN ARE USELESS EXCEPT TO PROVIDE MONEY. This is a brave new world and a wonderful move to push back the frontiers of “SOCIAL EQUALITY”. Men should learn their place in the order of things as fast as possible.

  3. Gee, Why not just lock up ALL men once they hit puberty? After all, it appears that men are just animals, useless (except for handing out money) and don’t deserve any consideration whatsoever. There are still some idiotic men who think that they have a place in society and have rights. Women NEVER EVER commit violence. Everyone knows that.

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