May 21, 2015 – 12:00AM
Queensland state political reporter
The state’s Chief Magistrate has stepped in and withdrawn a direction from north Queensland courts, which potentially could have seen people seeking domestic violence protection orders waiting until their family court matters were settled.
The direction, which had been sent to the Townsville Magistrate Court, advised magistrates that as “often the parties involved in the Protection Order application will be seeking orders for custody and/or
access in the Federal Court Circuit”.
“…It is not desirable for Courts in different jurisdictions to be required to make findings of fact with respect to the same events when their considerations will be based on different evidence with varying
standards of proof,” the direction read.
Lawyers for those seeking protection orders, usually women, became concerned the direction would mean those orders would be delayed, while other issues, such as custody, were determined by another court.
“Victims of domestic and family violence consistently report that their experience of the courts is disempowering and traumatic,”
Director of Queensland Association of Legal Services, James Farrell said.
“It is vital that supports are in place where people need them, and this must include Queensland courts.”
A spokesman for Yvette D’Ath said the Attorney-General agreed.
“Advice from the Chief Magistrate is that this did not mean ‘victims of family violence face uncertainty, or risks to safety’,” he said.
“All applications for DV orders are heard and determined on their merits. Interim orders are always made as necessary. Final orders are also made whenever the application is not contested.
“If the Magistrate is satisfied that there is a need to determine applications for protection orders, they may do so.
“However, the Chief Magistrate has asked that the practice direction be withdrawn.”
Which is a start, Mr Farrell said, but there is still much for a government which has promised to seriously consider all the recommendations from the review of domestic violence issues across the state.
“Another necessary and overdue step is ensuring there are community lawyers in courts to offer legal advice and representation,” he said.
Two women die from domestic violence every week across Australia, with many more injured.
The Brisbane Times