The role of Victoria Police in protecting victims of family violence is critical.
It is vital that women and children are safe and supported through police involvement.
Police attend family violence incidents that are challenging, chaotic and overwhelming. In this context, sometimes police make mistakes, such as naming the wrong person as the respondent on a family violence intervention order application. This is known as “misidentification of primary aggressor”, or “MisID”. Such mistakes have far reaching, negative impacts for those women, who then experience a second layer of coercion and control, as they navigate the police and judicial systems.
It is important to note that some women named as respondents will have used violence. That said, the data shows that women’s use of violence in the intimate partner context is strongly correlated with long-term violence at the hands of their male partner. Police do not consistently react protectively to these traumatised women.
Over the last two years, WLSV duty lawyers at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court have noticed an increase in both the number of women being named as respondents to police applications for family violence intervention orders and the proportion of those women who are incorrectly identified as the primary aggressor.
In the context of limited publicly available data, WLSV undertook a manual file review of all the cases where we assisted women at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court over the five-month period January – May 2018. Our review confirmed our duty lawyers’ observations that misidentification is happening frequently.
WLSV has also written a policy background paper about MisID which is available to read here.