On Monday 19 November, the Victorian Family Law Pathways Network hosted “Victoria Police: Response to Family Violence”. The event was an opportunity for network members to engage with representatives from Victoria Police.
The presenter, Detective Senior Sergeant Craig McEvoy from Melbourne’s Family Violence Investigation Unit (FVIU) discussed how the Victorian Police respond to Family Violence incidents by clarifying the role of the FVIU, outlining their Code of Practice, risk assessment processes, the difficulties in collecting evidence as well as the reforms implement in the wake of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Detective Senior Sergeant Craig McEvoy began the presentation by providing some background information about his role and the role of the FVIU. The Melbourne FVIU currently consists of a team of 9 investigators and support staff that work to identify and manage high risk perpetrators and victims of family violence. They are tasked with investigating serious offences where family violence is identified to be the determining factor.
In the wake of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, it was recommended that Victoria Police develop a model to strengthen their investigative methods for family violence offenses, particularly, the embedding of qualified investigators within the FVIU with the capability to investigate and manage high-risk and complex cases and support general duties police and other specialist units.
Detective Senior Sergeant Craig McEvoy explained that standing orders state that police must:
· Instigate an investigation where they believe family violence has been committed regardless of the wishes of the parties/where the information originated
· Make an application for an IVO where the safety, welfare or property of a family member appears to be endangered
· Make a formal referral to a support agency where it is believed that there is a likelihood of a future incident occurring
· Instigate an investigation where a criminal offence of a breach of an IVO is believed to have been committed
He then shed some light on the risk assessment that police officers undertake when responding to an incident of family violence. During this risk assessment, Police are looking to identify:
· Assaults – threats/ weapons/ strangulation/ sexual assault
· Frequency of FV incidents – are they escalating?
· Is there an IVO in place – is it sufficient?
· Contributing factors, such as:
Drugs/ alcohol/ prescription medications
Pregnancy/ new birth
Stalking/ obsessive behavior
· Who is present – children – are they present/ where are they/ have they been exposed to family violence
· Is the victim supportive of Police intervention? – why not?- cultural/ isolation/ financial/ previous involvement with Police
· History of family violence between parties
An energetic and lengthy Q & A followed the conclusion of the formal presentation, allowing the audience a chance to ask questions about police involvement in the family violence space and voice opinions regarding policy issues in the sector.
The audience was a mix of lawyers, private practitioners, family violence workers and workers from ancillary services, which provided for a lively discussion during the Q & A. For example, the risks and benefits of police knowing about and allowing IVO breaches in positive circumstances were questioned, and the issue of misidentification of perpetrators was discussed. The audience had a chance to explain how these issues affect their work in the sector, and offer ideas on how these issues could be managed.
Detective Senior Sergeant Craig McEvoy’s presentation combined with the Q & A enlivened a great discussion that showed how passionate professionals working in the family law sector are in striving to achieve the very best outcome for clients.