Fewer than half of perpetrators and half of victims appear in Queensland’s Special Domestic Violence Court, and many spend six months on the waiting list, according to a report.
However, the court has had promising results in making victims who come to court feel safer and in convincing offenders that their behavior needs to change.
Griffith University on Friday released a report on the Gold Coast Domestic and Family Violence Court, which has received 10,600 applications since 2017.
Examiners found that approximately 50% of victims and 60% of perpetrators did not show up for their hearings.
“It needs to be dealt with; they don’t access services, they don’t go to court, and often that will result in the case being adjourned,” a domestic violence service provider said in the report.
“Coming to court provides a window of opportunity, a time when they could actually talk to someone, a time when there might actually be an opportunity for change; we need to be able to talk to men first.
The report found that victims avoided court for safety or trauma reasons, while some were “discouraged” from attending by strangers.
Meanwhile, some perpetrators failed to appear because the court application form used “language that suggests attendance is not necessary.”
The lack of court attendance meant that a significant number of victims and perpetrators did not have access to legal advice or support provided in court.
This included the opportunity for offenders to discuss the practical implications of any orders made against them.
The Special Court’s waiting list can be up to six months long, the report said, with two magistrates handling 14% of Queensland’s domestic and family violence applications.
Victims who appeared before the specialized court thought that the perpetrators were more likely to feel “held responsible for the incident by the magistrate” than those who went to a regular court.
More than half of all offenders strongly agreed or agreed that their behavior needed to change after their hearings in the specialist court, compared to just two in nine in a regular court.
Nine out of 10 perpetrators also complied with the domestic violence special court orders.
Nearly nine in 10 victims and perpetrators also felt they were “treated with respect”, “the court process was fair”, and the decision was “just”.
Queensland Attorney General Shannon Fentiman said the report showed the new court was worth it.
“It is very clear from the report that different agencies working together make a big difference, connecting people with support services before, during and after their case is heard in court,” she said.
“The report suggests that this support makes people seeking domestic violence orders feel safer and more confident about the criminal justice system.”