Focus on family violence in Victoria's Magistrates’ Court

Focus on family violence in Victoria's Magistrates’ Court

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen
Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen

Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen is overseeing a shift in the way the Victorian Magistrates’ Court approaches family violence matters.

‘The court is placing more attention on family violence and how we deal with it,’ Chief Lauritsen said. ‘With increases in funding, we have been able to improve services across all regions of Victoria.

‘There are dedicated family violence registrars in each region who provide information to relevant parties including police, applicants and respondents.

‘We also have workers who support applicants and respondents by providing non-legal referrals for services such as housing or drug and alcohol counselling,' he said. 

With Victoria Legal Aid co-ordinating duty lawyer lists at Magistrates’ Courts across the state, Chief Magistrate Lauritsen recognises the role we play, particularly in meeting the growing challenge of family violence.

‘Victoria Legal Aid and community legal centres occupy a critical spot in the system because what happens in our court can have a long-term effect as to what happens in other courts,’ he said.

‘Legal advice doesn’t only cover the nature of a family violence intervention order and the process behind it. The breadth of advice that legal aid lawyers have to provide can be large.’

Addressing the need for cultural change

The increased focus on family violence fits well with the aims of White Ribbon Day and Chief Magistrate Lauritsen sees the need for change.

‘There has to be a cultural change in the way one gender views the other. More specifically, in the way men view women.’

Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen

To further develop their expertise in the area of family violence, every Victorian magistrate will undergo training aimed at providing cutting-edge knowledge in the dynamics of family violence.

‘Over the next year, all magistrates will undergo a two-day training course, developed with the Judicial College of Victoria,’ Chief Magistrate Lauritsen said.

‘This is a significant investment of resources and is unique to Victoria.’

The court is also introducing a project in Dandenong to reduce the time it takes for those charged with family violence crimes to have their cases heard.

‘We know that the longer a case takes to be heard, the recidivism rate increases and incidents are more intense and frequent,’ he said.

‘Another initiative to address the increase has been the introduction of weekend court. This has been successful in getting more people through the court and will be continued next year.’

Along with the court and police prosecutors, Victoria Legal Aid has contributed to it working well.

‘Legal aid lawyers have played an important role in the success. They were uniformly first rate, as is their ability to get instructions from their clients to assist in making applications or pleas in a timely manner.’

‘Victoria Legal Aid lawyers are of a high quality and are enthusiastic about their work,’ Chief Magistrate Lauritsen said.

‘People tend to join such bodies for their desire to achieve justice which results in a high quality of work, as well as an enthusiasm and determination to achieve just outcomes for clients.’

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