An interesting article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald written by Jamie Lee:

Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen said all magistrates would attend a two-day training course at the Judicial College of Victoria next year.

Magistrates are often at the coalface of disputes between family violence victims and their partners. The Magistrates Court finalised 50,208 applications for family violence intervention orders in the last financial year, up 49 per cent since 2008/09.

“The course will ensure magistrates have a clear understanding of what is known of the dynamics and social context of family violence and it will place each magistrate at the cutting edge of knowledge relating to these areas,” Chief Magistrate Lauritsen said.

A spokeswoman for the Judicial College of Victoria said it would run the course three times: “Magistrates will not only hear from a range of experts on the dynamics of family violence, but be given the opportunity through practical exercises and scenarios to discuss and recognise best practice in hearing family violence matters.”

They will discuss social issues within family violence, including cultural and disability issues and how people respond to trauma. The course will also cover engaging with perpetrators in the courtroom, accountability for perpetrators and behaviour change programs.

The court plans to improve its family violence services over the next two years, including enabling some victims and witnesses to give evidence via video and improving court waiting areas for children. It will also launch a website with information on family violence intervention orders and introduce new time frames for responding to family violence-related criminal charges.

Family violence registrars, who handle inquiries at court counters, will also be trained on family violence risk factors and how to manage risks.

Chief Magistrate Lauritsen will also chair a “taskforce” with Chief Police Commissioner Ken Lay, community lawyers and victims’ advocates to improve family violence services across the legal system. Law Institute of Victoria President Geoff Bowyer said they may recommend legal or funding changes to courts in criminal, civil and child protection areas of law.

It comes seven months after Melton West woman Fiona Warzywoda was stabbed to death by her former partner, Craig McDermott, in a shopping strip, hours after leaving the Sunshine Magistrates Court in relation to an intervention order against him. Mr McDermott, who handed himself in to police the next day, will appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on December 1 for a committal mention.

(source:  Jamie Lee, November 21 2014, Sydney Morning Herald)

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