Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:19): My question is for the Attorney-General. A recent Fitzroy Legal Service and Latrobe University research report documented how women experiencing domestic and family violence are policed and criminalised.
Amongst its various findings, the report highlighted police misidentification of victim-survivors as predominant aggressors as a problematic issue in the criminal justice system that needs to be addressed. It is, I guess, one more matter on this list that I have raised in this forum around women and the justice system.
So my question is: will the minister consider a Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) referral in relation to women in the criminal justice system?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:20): I thank Ms Patten for her question, which ended up being a very broad question. It started with a particular issue that I would not mind picking up on, though, and that is the misidentification of perpetrators in family violence situations and the impact that it has particularly on marginalised women.
It is an issue that has come to my attention through a lot of community legal centres and the conversations that I have. I have a regular round table with all of the CLCs, and it was actually a feature of a recent conversation.
I have asked for feedback from CLCs in relation to their experiences about this, because until you get the case studies you do not realise how horrific this actually is, how complicated it is and how much time it takes to unpick in the legal process. Very often there are children involved that can be removed, and then they all get to a point where they are like, ‘Oh, hang on’.
It is a real issue and can compound people’s legal issues. It is an issue that I am aware of. We have a working group that has commenced to look at this issue, and I have invited continual feedback, particularly from CLCs and the broader legal sector, on this issue because I would like to come up with solutions in relation to that.
It has not been my intention to prematurely make a referral of this matter to bodies such as the VLRC, because I am in the early stages of collating experiences directly from those that have lived experience or are dealing with clients in that regard.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:21): Thank you, Attorney, and I would commend the Legal and Social Issues Committee’s report on the inquiry into the criminal justice system, which did considerable work in this area and went to this issue.
The misidentification of victim-survivors is a policing issue in many respects, as I am sure you have heard at the round tables, but it is also one that could be remedied by criminal procedure.
So by way of supplementary: if the minister is not minded to consider a VLRC referral, would she contemplate a change in criminal procedure law to address this systemic issue?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:22): I thank Ms Patten for her question. I have not closed my mind off to any reform in this regard. I think reform is needed.
I am yet to be convinced of exactly what is best, and that is why it is actively under consideration and indeed detailed consultation.
Hopefully it is something I have the honour of being able to pick up next year.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Question without notice 1/9/22