Katherine DVO decision could put victims at risk, NT Police concede


September 04, 2019 14:20:13

A decision by local police in Katherine not to serve court-ordered domestic violence orders (DVOs) within the township could put victims at risk, a senior Northern Territory Police spokesperson says.

Key points:

  • Katherine police are no longer serving court-ordered DVOs in the town
  • Police admitted the practice could be putting victims at further risk
  • Across the NT, reported incidents of domestic violence in 2019 are down 3 per cent against the 10-year average

The ABC was told by members of the legal fraternity, who did not go on the record, that around May this year, police informed the Katherine Local Court they would not serve the orders.

Instead, the court is now paying for a bailiff to travel from Darwin once a week to serve the previous week’s DVOs.

Detective Acting Superintendent Megan Blackwell of the NT Police Sex Crimes Division, who is responsible for police responses to domestic violence, said she agreed the decision was putting victims at risk, given the arrangement meant victims could go up to six days without the protection of the DVO.

“I’ll certainly speak with my Katherine counterparts to see why that is,” Detective Blackwell said.

“It may be a Katherine-incident only, it doesn’t occur in Darwin.

“Unlike a police domestic violence order that can be served immediately, a court order needs to be served and potentially the perpetrator or the defendant located for it to be served, and that can be several hours, if not several days.

“So, in that time the victim is at risk, potentially there being another incident of domestic violence.”

Detective Blackwell said when Katherine police attended serious domestic violence cases, they still had the option of issuing a perpetrator with a “section 41” ā€” a police-issued DVO ā€” which, she said, police continued to use.

But court-ordered DVOs would have to be served by the visiting bailiff.

The ABC put questions to Attorney-General Natasha Fyles, who dismissed the issue as an “operational matter” for police.

“We’ve certainly made sure both police and justice have had additional budget resources so that they can deliver justice to Territorians,” Ms Fyles said.

Offending rates dropping, slightly

Police statistics provided to the ABC show over the past 12 months, there were 3,886 domestic violence assaults reported across the Northern Territory.

Once population changes were factored in, the rate of offending was 3 per cent lower than the 10-year average.

But at the Katherine Women’s Legal Service, demand for family violence assistance had almost doubled year-on-year.

CEO Brooke Brenner said their lawyers saw approximately 400 women a year, and delivered in excess of 1,200 legal services.

“And we’re probably not helping everybody that could be helped. It’s just simply a capacity issue sometimes,” she said.

Police did not have the figures available for Katherine, but said in Darwin they attended about 12 incidents of domestic violence per day.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot but when you break it down, that’s confirmed domestic incidences,” Detective Blackwell said.

“On the lowest, it is a verbal argument between parties, and at the extreme it’s a homicide.

“But a lot that we do attend is physical violence where our victims end up in hospital.”

Detective Blackwell said in the Northern Territory, more than 50 per cent of all homicides were committed by the victim’s partner.







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