THE dangers of coercive control and the handling of domestic violence matters before the courts will be examined in a formal review by the Victorian government.
Northern Victorian MP Tania Maxwell told Parliament's Upper House coercive control often first presented itself as an expression of love, of interest and of protection.
However, it later becomes uncomfortable and has been identified as a major red flag for future violence in relationships.
She made the remarks from the floor of the Legislative Council, when calling for support of her motion for a review of how the courts handle domestic violence cases.
It is expected to cover both legislative and procedural frameworks and include how evidence is collected and presented in cases against an intimate partner or family member.
"The single-incident approach of our justice system doesn't fit with the enduring nature of coercive control and some other family violence offending,'' she said.
"It can effectively mean that offenders avoid accountability for the complex and enduring behaviour patterns that occur in abusive relationships."
The review has been hailed as a step forward by domestic violence campaigner Lee Little, whose daughter Alicia was killed at Kyneton in December 2017.
She was at Parliament to see the review voted up unopposed.
Ms Maxwell said in the case of Alicia Little's death, the court had initially acknowledged a history of domestic violence, but discarded it due to a plea-bargaining deal.
"Alicia had interactions with the Centre Against Violence before her death and had reported to her doctor,'' she told parliament.
"The court noted their relationship was volatile within their four-year relationship and had been marked by episodes of family violence, yet there was no opportunity for the records of the Centre Against Violence or the evidence of their caseworkers to be presented to the court.
"So there was little consideration of family violence in the context of this offence, not to mention that he was subject to an intervention order by a former partner. The plea-bargaining process, by reducing the charge, took family violence outside the scope of the incident, so the court never obtained the full picture."
Ms Maxwell questioned whether allowing defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges, rather than face trial, was working in the best interests of the community.
"Plea-bargaining is seen as a necessary and efficient part of our justice system, most often the horsetrading of a guilty plea in exchange for a reduced charge and lower sentence,'' she said.
Courts often justify this by saying that victims are not traumatised through the court process, which might be true, but victims and their families often say they want their day in court, they want their story known.- Tania Maxwell MP
"This committee heard evidence that 111 out of 112 cases of intimate partner homicide - 99 per cent - had been preceded by elements of coercive control,'' she said.
There were more than 174,000 family violence offences reported in Victoria in the year ending 30, June 2021, Ms Maxwell said. It represented an 18 per cent increase on the previous year.
Ms Little said the success of the motion in the Upper House was encouraging and she would continue to campaign for change, including for specialist magistrates and judges to deal with domestic violence cases.
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