More jail terms for Victorian DV offenders

·2-min read

Victorians who breach family violence orders are almost three times more likely to end up in jail than they were 10 years ago.

In a report released on Tuesday, the Sentencing Advisory Council found the state's imprisonment rate for breaching of family violence orders almost tripled in the decade to 2020.

In 2011, imprisonment was the fifth-most common sentencing outcome for a breach, with 14.4 per cent receiving a prison sentence.

By 2020, imprisonment had become the most common sentencing outcome at 40.4 per cent.

The introduction of new offences in 2013 is part of the reason, with those who persistently breach a family violence order now able to be sentenced to a maximum of five years' jail.

The rate of fines for breaching family violence orders remained stable at about 20 per cent across the ten-year period, the report found.

But previous reports observed fines are often not appropriate in a family violence context, particularly if the money is drawn from communal funds.

Council chair Arie Freiberg said there had been significant changes in the nature of prison sentences over recent years.

"As a whole, the findings of this report also suggest that police in Victoria have become increasingly responsive to family violence," he said.

The number of short-term intervention orders issued by police rose markedly in the period, as did the number of court applications for long-term orders.

Police-issued Family Violence Safety Notices increased from about 5100 per year to 13,200, with a similar lift in applications for longer-term intervention orders in the Magistrates' Court in the same period.

The number of breaches recorded by police rose five-fold, from 10,600 in 2011 to 53,200 in 2020.

Stakeholders suggest this was due to an increased willingness to report family violence, along with Victoria Police efforts to increase responsiveness to breach behaviours.

Prof Freiberg described the decade as a "transformational period" for Victoria, including the royal commission report into family violence in 2016.

"We hope the findings of this report provide some measure of confidence that change is happening, and that family violence in all its forms is being taken seriously by the justice system."

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