New approach needed on family violence

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Professor Lawrence W. Sherman

Ground-breaking research has recommended a fundamental change in thinking and response to family and domestic violence in Western Australia.

Director of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge, Professor Lawrence Sherman, has delivered the findings of a comprehensive study, covering almost 215,000 incidents of family and domestic violence in Western Australia from July 2010 to July 2015.

"Domestic violence in Western Australia in this time was dominated by just two percent of the 36,000 offenders," said Professor Sherman. "This "felonious few" of 707 offenders caused over half of all the harm from such abuse."

The report commissioned by Western Australia Police found most of the remaining 98 percent of offenders caused no physical injuries to their victims, and recommends testing new strategies for preventing serious harm among the "felonious few".

Deputy Commissioner (Operations) Stephen Brown said there were also some important findings about being able to predict the most serious offences.

"While most of the harm committed is usually the first reported offence, we now know prior suicide attempts or threats can be predictors for homicidal behaviour in some cases," said Mr Brown. "This tells us more data sharing is required on mental health if we hope to save more lives."

"Real improvements will require cooperation from Government, the judiciary, mental health professionals and other agencies. But now we have the evidence that a change in thinking is needed,” said Mr Brown.

"While treating every family and domestic violence matter appropriately, we need to get the focus and balance right if we are serious about saving lives, preventing serious injury and reducing the number of victims."

View the report