Hundreds gathered at a twilight. Last Tuesday, the Gold Coast mother-of-three’s charred body was found in her backyard; her estranged husband, Brian Earl Johnston, was with her murder.
At the hands of domestic or family violence, Ms. Wilkinson’s death was one of three to rock Australia last week – and exposed, aside from the obvious, a “massive problem” that could have “disastrous” consequences for women and children if it continues to be ignored.
As well as being charged with murder, Mr. Johnston was charged with(DVO) in place since March and breaching bail. Ms. Wilkinson’s family told the Bulletin she had gone to the police “almost every day” to report his alleged behavior.
And while Mr. Johnston’s lawyer, Chris Hannay, told reporters lastthat “no one expected this to happen”, gendered violence experts, advocates, Ms. Wilkinson’s father, and police lamented that the 27-year-old’s death was not just predictable, but “totally preventable” – for one key reason.
On the Gold Coast alone, the number of serialoffenders disregarding protection orders has spiked by more than 100 in just a month – averaging 12 each day in March, according to police figures.
In Adelaide, where nine-month-old Kobi Shepherdson died in a suspected murder-suicide at the hands of her father last Wednesday, chilling courtan extensive history of allegations of domestic violence inflicted by Henry Shepherdson on Kobi’s mother.
Yet charges were dropped against Mr. Shepherdsonafter he threatened to kill his infant daughter and her mother – as they were for more than half of the defendants (54 percent) who made it to court in South Australia.
“It is a massive problem,” Women’s Safety NSW CEO, Hayley Foster, told news.com.au. “We know that for most women, having a domestic violence order in place increases her safety andfor further violence. But it’s not foolproof.
“Unfortunately, it can be hit and miss, and depending upon the particularor magistrate, women can experience being disbelieved and have their pleas for help dismissed.
“And we see this every day. It is not uncommon for police to dismiss order breaches five, 10, or 15 times. Still, even if the police take action, the matter could go before a magistrate that the offender off with a slap on the wrist repeatedly.”
“Women regularly tell us that their ADVOs (apprehended domestic violence orders) are being breached,” Law Reform and Policy co-ordinator at Women’s Legal Service NSW, Liz Snell, told news.com.au.
Last year, more than 35,000 defendantscharges of breaching DVOs, according to a Friday report by The Australian of unseen Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) experimental family and domestic violence figures.
“Women also oftenbreaches of ADVOs to police, insufficient action is taken by police, including a failure to lay criminal charges for the breach,” Ms. Snell said. “There need to be consistent consequences for the breaching of ADVOs by the predominant aggressor.”
According to the ABS, while 87 percent of defendants were convicted, most received a non-custodial sentence (a penalty that doesn’t include time in prison) involving an OK (40 percent), community supervision, work order (29 percent) or a good behavior bond. Only a quarter received a custodialor correctional institution.
“Currently, unfortunately, it takes a horrendous murder – as we saw last week – for these issues to be brought to the public’s attention and for governments to sit up and take notice,” Ms. Foster said.
“But the reality is, thousands of women and children each year are affected by an inconsistent response toorder breaches. “And we will never break the and children if we don’t start enforcing domestic violence orders consistently.”
Considered one of the fundamental mechanisms for protecting victims of abuse, a DVO is a civil order which can be made by police immediately and confirmed by a local magistrates court and is used in instances where the police (and then courts) arefrom violence, she explained.
The cost of ignoring the scale in which they’re breached and “getting this wrong can be disastrous for the women and children involved”, Ms. Foster added,to abusers and a message of hopelessness to victims”.
She explained that children are also not “systematically protected” by DVOs because police often “don’t want to interfere with a father’s access to their child”.
“Our primary concern should be tofrom violence and abuse. We know witnessing and experiencing violence and abuse can have catastrophic impacts on children well into adulthood,” Ms. Foster said.
“We need to ensure children’s voices are better heard throughout the process, and we need to ensure they are safe first and foremost.” This is an issue “that has been put in the ‘too-hard basket for too long”.
“We’ve been calling for stronger enforcement of woman or child killed. They’re demanding action, and governments are beginning to pay attention.”orders for decades,” she said. “But Australians have had enough, and they’re making their voices heard. They no longer want to wake up to another