The Women’s Legal Service Queensland has called for an “urgent” review of police family violence procedures and state bail laws, after a man allegedly attempted to murder two women at a Brisbane property within hours of his release from police custody on domestic violence charges.
Police said the man had been charged with a number of domestic violence offences – including assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault and wilful damage – related to incidents that occurred at a Wooloowin property about 11pm on Saturday.
He was subsequently released and a domestic violence protection order was issued against him.
About 6.15am on Sunday morning, the man then allegedly attempted to murder two women at the same Wooloowin address. He was subsequently charged with two counts of attempted murder.
The incident – which follows several recent cases where women have died after making domestic violence allegations to police – has prompted renewed concern that current risk assessment processes and bail laws are not adequate to protect vulnerable women.
Earlier this year, the Queensland government conducted a review into juvenile crime laws that took six days to propose measures that would reduce the number of alleged young offenders granted bail.
Angela Lynch, the chief executive of the Women’s Legal Service Queensland, says the same level of urgency is required in relation to domestic violence.
Lynch said the need was particularly acute in relation to domestic violence – in a way that was not the case with youth property crime – given the well-established risk posed to women in the period after domestic violence allegations are made.
The Queensland government is conducting a broad-ranging domestic violence legal review, headed by former court of appeal president Margaret McMurdo.
But Lynch said the situation was too urgent not to act sooner.
“Do we have to wait for another woman to die, is that when it becomes urgent?’’ she said.
“We can’t subcontract out governance constantly to reviews.
“The government also has an obligation to the safety of victims of domestic violence and we’re asking them to immediately consider these issues.
“We called for [changes] after Kelly Wilkinson, particularly around police bail. Again we’ve had this outcome. I don’t understand why the government didn’t respond urgently to the Kelly Wilkinson case.
“Is there a level of complacency, of acceptance of violence against women in society, where we accept that these things happen and that impedes our ability to respond in the same way?”
Police are reviewing their domestic violence procedures after the deaths of Kelly Wilkinson and Doreen Langham, and have said they conduct a risk assessment of all alleged offenders.
Lynch said an independent investigation into police handling of cases was needed. She said that if police did conduct risk assessments, they were not coming to an appropriate conclusion in many cases.
She said issuing a protection order should not be seen as an effective outcome; and that there was clearly not enough recognition of the risk posed by men immediately after allegations were made.
“We need a review of procedures,’’ Lynch said. “Police need to make an assessment, not about whether to issue a protection order, but whether the order is going to stop him. Is the level of danger so great that he shouldn’t be released at least until there’s court oversight?
“The risk is heightened [after police become involved in an incident].
“We need some more structure around that police decision-making. In all probability, there will always need to be a level of discretion [used by police] but we need better processes because the consequences are so great.”