Stalking crime reforms vital for our communities
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party has welcomed the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s interim report into stalking.
The report makes nine key recommendations to strengthen victim safety and enhance police understanding and identification of stalking behaviour.
Member for Northern Victoria Tania Maxwell MP presented an 8000-signature petition to Parliament in December 2020 calling for urgent government action to enforce offender intervention orders and pursue stalkers.
She was joined by the family of Celeste Manno, who lost her life at the hands of an alleged stalker in her Mernda home in November 2020, and met then Attorney-General Jill Hennessy with Celeste’s mother, Aggie DiMauro, and brother, Alessandro.
Ms Hennessey subsequently commissioned the VLRC review.
Ms Maxwell said the interim report, released on April 6, revealed the pressure on victims to protect themselves from stalking and risks to their safety by applying for intervention orders in court.
The report also shows the prevalence of stalking beyond family or intimate partner relationships.
“While there are some overlaps, the dynamics of stalking outside a family context are different and we need specialised ways to target this insidious crime,” Ms Maxwell said.
“Victim survivors need support from the time when stalking becomes apparent until well after an offender is charged, prosecuted and convicted.
“They need consistent care from our police service, courts and counsellors.
“They need to know that stalking has been stopped and that they can start to feel safe again.
“And to deliver this our communities need a system that works rapidly to identify and track stalking behaviour, reduce risk, and assure victim safety.”
The VLRC interim report recommends that every stalking allegation made to police should be consistently and centrally recorded.
It also recommends that Victoria Police should be responsible for seeking intervention orders to prevent an offender from following a victim.
“The report suggested that police responses, which are usually incident-based, may not be suitable for stalking,” Ms Maxwell said.
“Like coercive control, stalking involves course-of-conduct offending, which means the same offence committed time and again.
“Many people don’t report stalking until it’s been going on for some time, worried they are over-reacting or won’t be believed.”
Forensicare – the Victorian Institute for Forensic Mental Health – said victim survivor safety and stalker intervention should be a priority.
“When stalking is not recognised by police, at court, or by Corrections, we miss the opportunity to provide victim support and specialist assessment or treatment for offenders,” Ms Maxwell said.
Stuart Grimley MP said that the interim report strengthens the call for an expanded Victims’ Legal Service, including help for victims to deal with the personal safety intervention order process.
“Victim survivors often have to navigate complex application processes and advocate for themselves, including representing themselves because legal aid or duty lawyers are assisting the respondent,” Mr Grimley said.
“The VLRC recommended a ‘whole story’ framework.
“This includes guidance for police to minimise the burden on a victim to re-tell their story every time they make a report.”
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party made 36 recommendations in its submission last year to the VLRC stalking review.
Ms Maxwell said she was pleased that key recommendations, including the need for a new risk assessment framework, training for police and court officials and information sharing were reflected in the VLRC’s interim report.
The final report is due in June 2022.