Domestic violence information session

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service’s Colleen George, Cootamundra LAC Domestic Violence Liaison Officer Senior Constable Rennai Kentwell, and community leader Sonia Piper.

Community members attended an information session on domestic violence at Cooee Cottage on Monday, hearing from Cootamundra LAC Domestic Violence Liaison Officer Senior Constable Rennai Kentwell.

The purpose of the workshop was to share information and answer questions on what people could expect when police become involved in a domestic violence matter.

One of the key points expressed by Senior Constable Kentwell was the relatively recent introduction of video statements, that are used by police to capture the scene of an incident and a statement from the victim while it is still fresh in their minds.

“It’s a really great evidence tool that can be used in court,” she said.

“It shows everyone what we see when we show up, and it shows a lot more to the court as to what’s happened: injuries, the state of the house, the emotional state of the victim and the perpetrator, and other factors.”

Victims can decline to be video interviewed, and if a video is taken it can be used in court even if they change their minds about pursuing the matter further.

The purpose of this is to relieve victims of pressure they may feel from the perpetrator to drop or change their story after the fact.

“The police are going to ask a lot of questions, and it is very personal,” added Cootamundra Inspector Frank Brown, who was also in attendance.

“It’s not to try and be painful to you, it’s to try and determine if there’s a risk to anyone.”

Another salient point in the information session was the fact that when police take out an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) against someone on behalf of a victim, only they can revoke it.

There is nothing a perpetrator can do to force the victim to drop the AVO, as it’s not them who takes it out in the first place.

“We see a lot of relief on their faces when we say, this is not your AVO, this is my AVO,” Senior Constable Kentwell explained.

AVOs are also flexible.

All will have conditions like ‘not to assault, harass, or molest’ and ‘not to damage property,’ but each one is tailored to the specific case.

A common condition is that the person is not to contact the protected person only after they have been drinking.

Complying with the AVO is the responsibility of the defendant – even if the victim asks the perpetrator to come over, for example, if they do and that is a breach of their AVO then they will still be charged.

The most common court result from an AVO breach is a good behaviour bond, but Senior Constable Kentwell emphasised that this often included conditions like participating in anger management, parenting, and domestic violence courses.

“I feel confident in saying that roughly 95 per cent of domestic violence charges that go to court result in a conviction, and what we want is to stop future domestic violence,” she said.

“We want to address the underlying issues, we don’t want to keep showing up time and time again.”