Calls to unmask repeat DV offenders

 

VICTIMS of domestic violence say they could have escaped their abuser earlier if they'd been made aware of their criminal past, amid fresh calls for a disclosure scheme.

Domestic violence advocates, survivors and families of murdered women have joined together to call for wide ranging changes to laws, processes and education on the anniversary of the murders of Hannah Clarke and her children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3.

It comes as Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman announced a task force had been established to look at the criminalisation of coercive control.

The anniversary has also prompted calls for further discussion around GPS trackers for high risk offenders, the eradication of the defence of provocation and an education program in schools to teach kids about the signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Hannah and her children were murdered after she left an abusive and controlling relationship.

Her estranged husband ambushed her as she was driving the children to school, dousing them with petrol and setting them on fire before killing himself.

 

Lloyd and Sue Clarke at Hannah’s Place ahead of the anniversary of the deaths of Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey. Picture: John Gass.
Lloyd and Sue Clarke at Hannah’s Place ahead of the anniversary of the deaths of Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey. Picture: John Gass.

Studies show that as many as half of all domestic violence perpetrators will go on to commit more offences - although it is widely established that a great deal goes unreported.

Ms Fentiman said she was "always open to looking at what is best practice … to keep women safe and hold perpetrators to account".

"This is one of those areas where you have to be almost constantly vigilant and look at what other jurisdictions are doing to keep women safe," she said.

A disclosure scheme, called Clare's Law, has been in effect in the UK since 2014. It is named for Clare Wood, a woman murdered in England by her former partner who police knew to be dangerous.

Hannah Clarke's mother, Sue, said a disclosure scheme was worth examining.

She said it could possibly be set up so both parties need to agree to the information being disclosed.

"And if he says no, well, there's a red flag," she said.

The Queensland Law Reform Commission examined a disclosure scheme in 2017 and did not recommend its implementation, saying there was no evidence it would prevent violence.

But families of murdered women disagree.

Tim Class-Auliff has been campaigning for domestic violence reforms since 2008 when his sister-in-law Rachel Tholburn was killed by her partner in front of their three young children.

Her killer had a history of violence against other women and had physically assaulted and subjected Rachel to years of controlling behaviour.

Tim Class-Auliff, has adopted his sister in law's children after their mother was murdered in a domestic violence incident. Photo: Steve Pohlner.
Tim Class-Auliff, has adopted his sister in law's children after their mother was murdered in a domestic violence incident. Photo: Steve Pohlner.

"We managed to find other women who said he was (violent) but they hadn't gone to the police and filed charges," Mr Class-Auliff said.

"If you had a Clare's Law here, more women would go yes I can make a difference and be willing to speak up," he said.

"Let's look at our federal parliament the last couple of days, was she believed?

"The reason why women don't come forward is because they have this fear they won't be believed or their job will be on the line or they'll be punished in some way. It happens all the time."

Samantha Cooper, who was assaulted by children's charity founder Conan Visser, said having more information about his past could have kept her safe.

Victims of Conan Visser, Lauren Cass, Sam Cooper, Marley Howlett and Laikan Savage at Brisbane District Court.
Victims of Conan Visser, Lauren Cass, Sam Cooper, Marley Howlett and Laikan Savage at Brisbane District Court.

Visser, who started the I Can I Will charity, last year pleaded guilty to domestic violence offences, including assault occasioning bodily harm and common assault, after breaking into Ms Cooper's home and choking and slapping her.

His guilty pleas prompted other women to come forward and tell their stories of threats and harassment by Visser. Some had taken out domestic violence orders against him.

"If there was some way to be able to give women who are concerned about red flag behaviour access to information that could keep them safe, in a way that balances out people's privacy, I think it absolutely should be looked at," she said.

"I wish that somebody had said something to me or there was a way that I'd been able to access information that would have kept me safe earlier."

Conan Visser leaves the District Court in Brisbane. Visser, the founder of a Queensland anti-bullying charity was sentenced over the assault of former girlfriend Samantha Cooper. Picture: Dan Peled.
Conan Visser leaves the District Court in Brisbane. Visser, the founder of a Queensland anti-bullying charity was sentenced over the assault of former girlfriend Samantha Cooper. Picture: Dan Peled.

Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council co-chair Kay McGrath OAM said there were many serial perpetrators of domestic and family violence.

"Some Australian jurisdictions have implemented or are trialling disclosure schemes and Queensland is watching these closely," she said.

"These measures require careful thought and consideration to ensure they offer greater protection and not a false sense of safety."

Opposition spokeswoman for Health Ros Bates said she took the idea of a disclosure scheme to the 2017 election with plans to call it "Tara's Law" - a legacy for Tara Brown, who was murdered by former Bandidos bikie Lionel Patea.

Patea had a history of domestic violence with other partners.

"There's been issues in the past about high risk DV offenders moving from interstate and people not knowing their past history," Ms Bates said.

"Obviously it would be a database that could be accessed by the police so that it couldn't be abused."

Tara Brown's mother, Natalie Hinton, said she believed the disclosure of an offender's violent past could help save lives.

"We need to be able to access this information," she said.

"I know that if I was a mum over again and I had my suspicions of a young boyfriend of a daughter I would definitely access that information for my peace of mind and more so for my daughter's safety."

 

 

HOW CLARE'S LAW WORKS IN THE UK

Clare's Law has two main elements:

People - including but not limited to a potential target of abuse or violence - have the "right to ask" for information from the police on another person's history of violence or abusive behaviour, including that person's criminal record. A decision may be made to disclose that information to the person making the request.

The second element is a person's "right to know" - meaning police are able to inform someone they believe could be at risk of their partner's history on their own initiative.

Originally published as Calls to unmask repeat DV offenders


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