Wimmera police to keep victims safe in court

WIMMERA prosecutors believe that while the region’s courthouses lacked space, there were measures in place to help keep family violence victims safe.

It comes after lawyers in the region called for the state government to upgrade Wimmera courthouses to make them safer. 

Lawyers said family violence victims often had to wait for hours in the same room as their perpetrators at courthouses in the region because the buildings lacked space. 

Wimmera Prosecutions officer in charge Michael Patterson said while these issued had been acknowledged and there were changes being implemented to make courts safer.

“Police officers who are working within the division’s Family Violence Unit maintain regular contact with victims and are able to identify any foreseeable issues prior to them attending court,” he said.

Mr Patterson said victims did not have to attend court in person.

“There are legislative provisions available to have police informant’s appear on behalf of victims to avoid further exposure of emotional trauma to the victim,” he said.

“Remote witness equipment is available in Horsham and it is a high priority for us to ensure both Stawell and Ararat magistrates’ courts will have the same technology in the near future, to support victims.”

Mr Patterson said while many Wimmera courthouses were historic and confined, risks to victims were minimised through the presence of police officers at all times.

“I am not aware of any recent indents where a victim has been at risk of further harm while at these remote courthouses,” he said.

Mr Patterson said the Wimmera Court Circuit was fortunate to have experienced legal practitioners, support services and other court users who all share the same victim-centric approach.

He said any situation where victims were exposed to the perpetrator was regrettable.

Mr Patterson said there had been an increase in people reporting family violence matters, which had lead to more family violence matters coming before the court.

“This applies to both criminal prosecutions and applications for family violence intervention orders,” he said.

“In recognition of this trend and in order to provide a better and efficient process for victims, a court dedicated to hearing family violence matters sits once a fortnight at Horsham.

“This will allow victims of domestic violence to be better represented and linked in to essential support services.”

Horsham solicitor Melissa Schilling, from Power and Bennett, said it was only a matter of time before something terrible happened at courthouses in the region.

She said anyone who was involved in litigation against someone else, or is a victim of crime, was at risk in court.

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