Less than half of perpetrators and half of victims are turning up at Queensland’s special domestic violence court, and many are spending six months on the waiting list, a report says.
However the court has shown promising results in making victims who do appear feel safer, and convincing offenders that their behaviour needs to change.
Griffith University on Friday released a report on the domestic and family violence court on the Gold Coast, which has received 10,600 applications since 2017.
The reviewers found about 50% of victims and 60% of perpetrators were not showing up for their hearings.
“This needs to be dealt with; they are not accessing services, they are not going before the court, and often times this will result in the matter being adjourned,” a domestic violence service provider said in the report.
“Coming to court provides a window of opportunity, a time when they might actually talk to someone, a time where there might actually be an opportunity for change; we need to be able to talk to men in the first instance.”
The report found victims were avoiding the court for safety or trauma reasons, while some had been “discouraged” from attending by unknown people.
Meanwhile, some perpetrators did not show up because the court application form used “language that suggests that attendance is not necessary”.
The lack of court attendance meant substantial numbers of victims and perpetrators weren’t accessing the legal advice or support provided at court.
That included the opportunity for offenders to discuss the practical implications of any orders made against them.
The special court’s waiting list is up to six months, the report said, with two magistrates dealing with 14% of Queensland’s domestic and family violence applications.
Victims who fronted the specialist court thought perpetrators were more likely to feel they were being “held responsible for the incident by the magistrate” than those who went to a regular court.
More than half of all perpetrators strongly agreed or agreed that their behaviour needed to change after their hearings at the specialist court, compared to just two out of nine at a regular court.
Nine out of 10 perpetrators also complied with the special court’s domestic violence orders.
Almost nine out of 10 victims and perpetrators also felt they were “treated with respect”, “the court process was fair”, and the decision was “fair”.
Queensland’s attorney-general, Shannon Fentiman, said the report showed the new court has been worthwhile.
“It is very clear from the report that the various agencies working together is making a big difference, by connecting people with support services before, during, and after their matter has been heard in court,” she said.
“The report suggests this support is making people seeking a domestic violence order feel safer, and more confident dealing with the criminal justice system.”