Family violence court cases rise 20 per cent

WARRNAMBOOL Legal Aid lawyers are seeing more family violence matters than ever before.

The Warrnambool Victoria Legal Aid branch had an overall increase of more than 20 per cent in providing assistance with family violence matters, compared with the 2010-11 financial year. 

Among the most in demand service was its duty lawyers in Warrnambool Magistrates Court, jumping by nearly 30 per cent on the previous year. 

Across the south-west, there was a increase of 28 per cent for Victoria Legal Aid duty lawyer services, court attendances funded within a grant of legal assistance rose by 30 per cent and the total number of clients who received a grant of legal assistance was up by 6.6 per cent.

Its total services across family violence matters, including casework, duty lawyer services and legal advice, increased by 20.5 per cent.

Amanda Chambers, managing lawyer at Victoria Legal Aid’s Warrnambool office, said targeted government strategies, an increase in police focus on family violence and the emergence of preventative media campaigns have heightened demand for assistance. 

“In turn, the challenge for us has been to respond effectively to an increasing number of clients who need help with safety plans and violence restraining orders,” she said. 

“Also, through a grant of legal assistance, clients who need help to resolve how their children will be supported and cared for in the long-term and in the immediate aftermath of a relationship breakdown.”

In 2011-2012, Victoria Legal Aid’s duty lawyers across the state helped people with family violence matters more than any other family or children’s law matter, representing 71.7 per cent of duty lawyer services in its family law program.

This was an increase of 10.8 per cent on 2010-2011 and a 53 per cent rise on 2007-2008.

There was a 47 per cent increase in the number of family violence intervention order applications made in magistrates courts across Victoria in the past five years.

In September, The Standard reported that Department of Justice figures showed that during the 2009-2010 period there were 252 incidents of family violence reported to Warrnambool police, compared with 89 reports from 1999-2000.

During the 2009-2010 period 317 people were included in applications for intervention orders in Warrnambool, of which 64 per cent were female.

Anyone experiencing family violence should call Emma House on 5561 1934, the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service on 1800 015 188 or if in immediate danger call the police on 000.

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