Family violence survivor Rosie Batty has welcomed Victoria Police’s new tool to help assess risk in family violence matters, saying it might have led to intervention against her former partner, who took the life of their son, Luke.
Victoria Police today launched the state rollout of a mobile application giving officers better questions to ask domestic violence survivors, and giving swift updates as to the likelihood of the violence escalating within the next 12 months.
The launch comes after a two-year pilot, using questions formulated in consultation with survivors like Ms Batty, and researchers from Swinburne University and Forensicare.
Police say every seven minutes, an officer attends a family violence incident in Victoria, often facing complex situations.
Police across the state have been issued 9,500 iPads and iPhones to make the updated assessment report on the spot.
The new system will not only offer more targeted questions, but will also give police a speedy reassessment of how dangerous a perpetrator is.
They will be ranked on a scale of one to 15 — the higher the score, the higher the risk.
At the launch, Assistant Commissioner Family Violence Command Dean McWhirter said it was an “historic achievement”, the first change in a decade to the force’s family violence response in terms of supporting victims.
“Put simply, we had to change,” he said.
“We needed to listen and we’ve done that.”
He said police could see the risk assessment change in real time as they asked guided questions which were based on data and research.
“That certainly gives members a clear indication about putting some interventions in place for victims,” he said.
“Through the tragic circumstances of Luke Batty’s death, through the recommendations of a coronial inquest, we have been working for five years to deliver a much-improved and informed, research-based and evidence-based response to family violence,” he said.
Ms Batty said there was no proper risk assessment when it came to her case.
“I would say back then, and you’re talking about five years ago, they wouldn’t have and they certainly didn’t consider my situation to be dangerous. And they had no idea that Luke would be clearly at risk, and nobody did either.”
“I don’t think it’s going to prevent every single fatality and problem that will occur but it will go a long way towards assessing the red flags.
“With an improved response from the police that were involved, better training for those police officers that were involved, together with a tool like this … I don’t know that it would have saved Luke’s life, but there would have been a higher possibility of intervention.”
Ms Batty said there was now a much greater awareness of red flags for victims of family violence.
“We do know even if they’re not being physically harmed there are still risks that have been minimised, because it hasn’t been understood that stalking or choking or financial abuse or any one of these other elements of violence haven’t been seen as dangerous,” she said.
When asked whether this would have prevented Luke Batty’s death, Assistant Commissioner McWhirter said: “We would’ve been able to identify the level of risk and potentially escalation of that risk and we would’ve put in interventions immediately based on that risk assessment.”
There was a pause as he considered one of the state’s most poignant cases of family violence, before adding, “but we will never know”.