Domestic violence review

THE state government will investigate family violence-related murders in a bid to prevent further deaths.

The review is likely to be the most high-profile investigation into domestic homicides since Coroner Peter Wilson's inquests into the murders of Michelle Morcom and Sonja Mercer more than a decade ago.

Both women were gunned down by their partners with their deaths leading to  cultural change within Tasmania Police and new family violence legislation. 

``The Tasmanian Government also remains committed to undertaking a wider systemic review of family violence-related homicides in Tasmania, to identify points of intervention and common warning signs,'' Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin said.

The inquest into the tragic 2001 murder of Longford's Sonja Mercer by Darren William Batchelor revealed police had told Batchelor that Ms Mercer had returned home to pack her things. 

Batchelor went to the property and shot the woman dead before fatally turning the gun on himself.

At the time, Ms Mercer had been trying to put a restraining order on Batchelor. 

In similar circumstances, Jamie Aaron Venn killed his estranged partner, Michelle Morcom, at their Mayfield home in 2002.

 Ms Morcom had applied for an interim restraining order against Venn at the time of the shooting. 

In 2004, Labor introduced Safe at Home.

A key feature of the legislation is the pro-arrest stance by police and presumption against bail.

Police and the courts can only bail suspected offenders if they are satisfied they will not harm the victim. 

The Justice Department launched an internal review of Safe at Home in May. 

Ms Goodwin said the performance review was to gauge whether it was meeting its original objectives. 

The government will await the report, expected in September, before beginning the wider review  into family violence, including murders.

 One of Safe at Home's architects Liz Little said it worked well but the later stages of the program were never implemented.

``When we look at the rates of homicide in states like Victoria we see the system here is significantly better,'' she said. 

``The areas which have not been dealt with at all adequately and really need to be a priority are the responses to children who are living with domestic violence  ... and the rehabilitation of offenders.''

The Women's Legal Service of Tasmania, which deals a lot with women in family violence situations, has welcomed both reviews.

Managing Solicitor Susan Fahey said her organisation would like to see police family violence orders revisited 72 hours after they are made.

Ms Fahey said this would ensure the orders - initially made in stressful circumstances - are appropriate. 

``Sometimes what we find is that orders work in the first instance but once everybody's stepped back and had a look it doesn't quite work,'' she said. 

Ms Fahey said the provision regarding economic abuse in the Safe at Home laws needed amending because offenders were rarely prosecuted for it. 

The Law Society of Tasmania has previously called for Safe at Home's bail provisions to be changed because infringe notions of innocent until proven guilty.


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