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There have been as many as 60 New South Wales police officers investigated for domestic and family violence incidents over a four-year period, with 11 of these officers subject to prior investigations, including more than once in some cases.

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (‘LECC’) conducted a four-year review into the police response to domestic and family violence matters, examining 222 complaint investigations by police.

The report noted that 70 of these complaint investigations related to officers being involved in domestic and family violence incidents themselves.

This comprised of 60 police officers, with 17 ultimately charged with offences, and 11 found to have been previously investigated for such matters.

In these cases, the report voiced concerns that these matters routinely involved poor record keeping about the removal of the accused officer’s firearms.

“We saw problems with the way in which police managed conflicts of interest when another police officer was said to be involved in the domestic or family violence,” stated The Chief Commissioner of the LECC, Peter Johnson SC.

Other complaints made regarding police responding to domestic and family violence incidents included those related to the ‘inadequate’ nature of some investigations.

The most concerning issues identified included officers failing to make a record of a reported incident, or taking statements from the alleged victim, witnesses, or collecting other suitable evidence.

Additional issues also raised were a lack of victim support, inadequate supervision of an investigation and incidents where police did not apply for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (‘ADVO’).

Ultimately, the report recommended that significant improvements need to be made to processes related to investigating officers accused of domestic and family violence as well as mandatory training to all officers in domestic and family violence procedures.

It also noted that clear records should be made every time police respond to such an incident, with improved record keeping practices implemented in relation to the removal of firearms.

The Chief Commissioner summarised how the report highlights the large scale of police work involved in responding to domestic and family violence.

It is estimated that domestic and family violence accounts for up to 40% of police work in NSW, with police responding to nearly 500 incidents per day across the state.

This totals around 180,000 domestic and family violence incidents each year.

In response, NSW Police have announced that they will address a number of these recommendations.

They are currently planning significant changes in the way officers manage and investigate such incidents, with new strategies expected to be implemented in the next 12 to 18 months.

The report identified current key strategies employed by the police, including video and audio recording evidence of alleged victims, as well as issuing provisional ADVOs.

Such strategies also include targeted checks regarding compliance with ADVO conditions for high-risk defendants, as well as the identification and subsequent targeting of repeat offenders.

Despite the controversy associated with these proactive policing initiatives, the report contained favourable reflections on their operation, citing research that they had reduced domestic violence.

Criticisms aimed at proactive strategies include that they are often not based on legislation which can lead to officers acting outside their powers, and an absence of accountability.

Furthermore, their use is often disproportionate against First Nations people, with subjects often describing such attention by police as akin to ‘constant harassment’ which may lead to poor police-community relations.

The Domestic Violence Suspect Target Management Plan (‘DV-STMP’) is a proactive policing strategy, aimed at reducing domestic and family violence related offences among high-risk offenders.

It essentially involves police identifying a recidivist offender, with Domestic Violence Liaison Officers and their intelligence unit then developing detailed strategies in response.

A general duties team is also tasked to target the offender.

The offender will be notified that they have been placed on the DV-STMP and will be advised that ‘any offence will be thoroughly investigated with a zero-tolerance approach.’

Placement on the DV-STMP essentially involves enhanced supervision of the offender which may include checking that they are complying with ADVO and/or bail conditions or issuing move-on directives, where appropriate.

In this process, the victim will also be contacted and notified, however, it is emphasised that placement on the DV-STMP is a police initiative and not a request by the victim.

What is a Domestic Violence Offence?

Considerations that guide determining whether an offence will be considered a ‘domestic violence’ offence are outlined in theCrimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW).

A ‘domestic violence’ offence is defined as offences involving persons in a domestic relationship, which are a:

  • Personal violence offence (for example: assault, choking, sexual touching, sexual assault, murder),
  • An offence that arises from substantially the same circumstances as those from which a personal violence offence has arisen, or
  • An offence which is intended to coerce or control the person against whom it is committed or to cause that person to be intimidated or fearful.

Domestic relationships are defined by the Act to include:

  • Married or divorced persons,
  • De-facto or ex-de-facto partners,
  • Those who are in or have had an intimate relationship,
  • Relatives,
  • Those living or have lived in the same household,
  • Those living or who have lived together as long-term residents in the same residential facility,
  • Relationships which involve ongoing paid or unpaid care of the other person.

In the case of First Nations people, domestic relationships will also include persons who are or have been a part of the extended family or kin of the other person, according to the Indigenous kinship system of the person’s culture.

 

image credit: ymgerman

Published on 23/06/2023

AUTHOR Poppy Morandin

Poppy Morandin is the managing law clerk and an integral part of the team of criminal lawyers at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia . She's also a part of CDLA's content article production team. Poppy is passionate about law reform and criminal justice.

View all posts by Poppy Morandin