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‘One chance to get this right’: Queensland domestic violence inquiry must address police culture

Ben Smee reports in The Guardian (11.5.22) on the Palaszczuk government’s announcement of an inquiry into Queensland police responses to domestic violence, in line with recommendations from the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce led by former Court of Appeal president, Margaret McMurdo.

‘The Queensland government will on Wednesday announce the terms of reference for a four-month commission of inquiry into how the Queensland police service handles domestic violence.

‘For leading academics, women’s advocates and domestic violence victims, the inquiry has been a long time coming.

‘… An inquiry into “widespread cultural issues” within the police service was a key recommendation of the Queensland women’s safety and justice taskforce, chaired by former court of appeal president Margaret McMurdo. The taskforce found that women seeking protection from police enter “a raffle”. Some get excellent assistance, but others are turned away.

‘Over the years, reports and inquests have focused on police practices – things like training and procedures that can be easily reformed. Changes have been made. Women continue to be failed.

‘The McMurdo report’s most controversial – and some say critical – recommendation was to call for an inquiry into police culture. It acknowledged what experts have said consistently for years – that officer attitudes and masculine police culture contribute to poor responses.’

‘Inadequate response’ of Queensland police to domestic violence needs to be addressed, coroner says

AAP reports in The Guardian (27.6.22) on Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley’s observations that Queensland Police too often show ‘inadequte resopnse’ to cases of domestic violence.

‘A coroner has called for urgent reforms to address the “inadequate response” of Queensland police to domestic violence, after investigating the deaths of a woman and her ex-partner.

‘Doreen Langham died after Gary Hely set alight her townhouse in Browns Plains, south of Brisbane, with the intention of killing the 49-year-old and himself on 22 February 2021.

‘Coroner Jane Bentley found Hely had continually breached a domestic violence order and committed other crimes, but police did not consider his offending significant enough to make any real attempt to find him so he could be questioned and charged.

‘… Bentley found the police response to Langham’s complaints “was inadequate and police officers failed to protect her and prevent her death”.

‘The experience Langham received “fell far short” of the basic expectations of the police response to domestic and family violence.’

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