Published: 28 September 2018

Legislative Council - Wednesday 19 September 2018

Ms FORRESTt question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT

With regard to support services available to victims of family violence -

(1)  What avenues are available for victims of family violence when the perpetrator is a police officer or an emergency services worker?

(2)  How are such cases handled, given the potential for conflict of interest and genuine concerns regarding confidentiality of the victim?

(3)  How is confidentiality of the victim ensured?

ANSWER

Mr President, I thank the member for Murchison for her questions, the answers to which are -

(1)  Where police officers reasonably suspect family violence has or is likely to be committed, Tasmania Police has a pro-intervention policy and will ensure the safety of the victim and any affected children.

(2)  Tasmania Police will hold any perpetrator of family violence accountable for their actions.  If a report of family violence involving a member of Tasmania Police is received, comprehensive instructions issued by the Commissioner of Police must be followed.  An inspector of police oversees any report and investigation relating to the reported family violence.

Depending on the type and nature of family violence reported, Professional Standards is advised and, in some cases, will take carriage of the investigation.  All alleged family violence incidents involving police officers are reported to and monitored by the Deputy Commissioner of Police.

If the alleged family violence perpetrator is a police officer, victims are still encouraged to make reports through normal reporting channels, as this ensures proper response and safety protocols are implemented.  The same applies to victims of emergency service workers; however, it is acknowledged that in some circumstances victims might not be comfortable making reports to police if the alleged perpetrator is a police officer.

In such cases, there are other avenues through which victims can seek assistance that do not involve reporting directly to police.  Initially information and advice can be sought by telephone from such support services as 1800RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and information referral service; the Tasmanian Family Violence Response and Referral Line at 1800 602 122; or SHE  (Support, Help, Empowerment) on 6278 9090.

Support services such as these offer trained counsellors who will listen and support victims and provide assistance and information for the victims in their decision-making in regards to their individual circumstances.  The national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and information referral service will connect victims with organisations operating within their respective state or territory, which can assist them in reporting alleged violence to police and provide access to a range of local services.

In addition victims can go directly to local support services that can assist in organising a safe place to stay, acting as an advocate in accessing other assistance such as housing or Centrelink, providing information and  support to family and friends and acting as a support person if the victim wishes to make a formal report to police.  Any victim who reports family violence becomes a client of Safe at Home, the Tasmanian whole-of-government integrated criminal justice response to family violence.

This service system began in 2005 and aims to improve safety and security for adult and child victims of family violence in the short and long term; ensure perpetrators are held accountable for family violence as a public crime and change their offending behaviour; reduce the incidence and severity of family violence in the longer term; and minimise the negative impacts of contact with the criminal justice system on adults and children.

Safe at Home is funded for a number of victim-specific services such as counselling and court support.  In 2015, further victim services were funded under the Government’s Safe Homes, Safe Families: Tasmania's Family Violence Action Plan 2015-20. 

(3)  Tasmania Police considers the confidentiality of any victims of the utmost importance.  In addition it ensures reports from alleged family violence involving police officers are managed in a confidential manner.  The Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management Future Focus 2017-20 document cites its core values as including integrity and honest, professional, transparent and ethical behaviour in all aspects of its business.

Tasmania Police considers it a serious breach of confidentiality and trust for any employee to access and/or disclose any information not directly related to a work purpose.  It is unacceptable and potentially unlawful to access information without a work-related purpose.  Any breach of trust and confidentiality is treated seriously, and results in strong disciplinary action which may include termination of employment and/or prosecution.

Systems are in place to enable access audits and random audits of access to information by police officers and State Service employees of the department.  The Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management provides a range of confidential psychological and welfare support services for its employees, including those who may be victims of family violence.  Those services extend to spouses, partners and children of employees.

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