Julia's cover image
Julia

Julia Mansour

Year of Award: 2014 Award State: New South Wales Legal > General
Social Welfare > Domestic Violence
The Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship to investigate the situation of women defendants in domestic violence incidents in comparable legal jurisdictions - UK, USA, Canada
Download

As a solicitor at Women’s Legal Services NSW (‘WLS’) I have been substantially involved in law reform projects on the issue of women defendants to Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (‘AVO’) proceedings in NSW. These projects have responded to the concerning issue of women with a history of domestic violence being committed against them being named as the person of interest (i.e. the perpetrator) in domestic violence matters. While acknowledging that some women, including domestic violence victims, may themselves commit violence warranting a criminal justice response, WLS has had a longstanding concern that the AVO system may also be used against female victims of domestic violence as a tool of legal abuse.

The purpose of my Churchill Fellowship was to investigate the situation of women defendants in domestic violence situations in comparable jurisdictions. Although my principal goal was to consider possibilities for reform to the AVO scheme, rather than to the criminal law, I was interested to interview respondents who could give me insight into the links between the systemic issues faced by women defendants to AVOs, and women facing criminal charges in jurisdictions where Police act on a ‘pro-arrest’ or ‘mandatory arrest’ policy basis in domestic violence cases.

Although not all of my interview subjects were of the view that abuse of the civil intervention order system was a problem in their own jurisdictions, each interviewee agreed that it was easy to understand how the nature and dynamics of domestic violence might lead to the kind of systemic abuse of the NSW legal system in the manner I described. The most common factor that appeared to be a determinant of whether abuse of the civil intervention order system was present in a jurisdiction was the relative importance of these orders as a legal response to domestic violence compared to other measures, such as the criminal law.

While gender sensitive policing and training of both judges and police is clearly crucial to stopping perpetrator abuse of the system in NSW, there are concrete steps that Community Legal Centres such as WLS can take to improve the overall service provision to women defendants to AVOs who are victims of violence.

These steps could include advocating for the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service and Domestic Violence Practitioner Scheme to cover all courts in NSW so that women defendants have the opportunity for early legal advice; building relationships with Registrars, especially in rural and regional courts, to determine what kind of Community Legal Educational Materials could be developed and distributed by the Court to women defendants in AVO matters; and developing advocacy packs for CLCs and other lawyers to streamline and improve their advocacy. Further Australia-wide research is also clearly needed concerning the extent to which intervention orders are pursued against women with a history of domestic violence against them, especially by their intimate partners.

Related fellows
Katharine SHORT, Katharine
Legal > General
Social Welfare > Domestic Violence
2008
Kylie Beckhouse, Kylie
Legal > General
2014
Katie Bourne, Katie
Legal > General
2014
Jennifer Bowles , Jennifer
Legal > General
2014
Catherine Crawford, Catherine
Legal > General
2014
Hugh Dillon, Hugh
Legal > General
2014
James Farrell, James
Legal > General
2014
Eleanore Fritze, Eleanore
Legal > General
2014
Jonathan Graham, Jonathan
Social Welfare > Domestic Violence
2014
Anna Horvath, Anna
Legal > General
2014