New Report Released on PSIOs In Victoria
The Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council has released a report on Personal Safety Intervention Orders (PSIOs) in the state that has found that applications are disproportionately made in rural and regional Victoria. The report also revealed changes in the rate of applications for and breaches of PSIOs over a ten year period as well as trends in sentencing outcomes for breaches, the number of interim and final PSIOs issued by courts, the offence types co-charged along with breaches and the incidence of reoffending for PSIO breach offenders. It is one of three reports prepared by the Council in an attempt to improve responses to stalking.
Rural areas overrepresented
The report found that while 24% of Victoria’s population lives in rural and regional areas, 41% of PSIO applications were made in those areas, with the Gippsland and Loddon Mallee areas most overrepresented.
Family violence and PSIOs
Family violence was strongly associated with breaches of PSIOs, with 27% of PSIO breaches dealt with in the Magistrates Court having a family violence flag and 11% of the PSIO breaches recorded by police taking place in the context of family violence.
There is clearly a significant overlap between PSIOs and family violence in spite of PVIOs being intended to operate as a counterpart to Family Violence Intervention Orders (FVIOs) and Family Violence Safety Notices. This suggests that obtaining an FVIO for a person who is subject to family violence may not always be appropriate or available or may be a procedure that is not known about.
As many of the cases that fell into this overlapping category were persons indirectly exposed to family violence (such as the new partner of the respondent’s former partner), this raised the question of whether such people are adequately provided for under existing legislation.
PSIOs against children and adults
While the majority of PSIOs issued by the Magistrates Court were between neighbours, co-tenants and boarders, in the Children’s Court they were most often issued in a school-related context, between fellow students or between students and teachers. This indicated that PSIOs are most commonly used to protect persons against those with whom they have regular contact.
Changes over time
The report looked at the period from 2011 to 2020. In this period, the number of Intervention Order applications in the Magistrates Court increased steadily. Though this increase was reflective of the increase in the state’s population, there was a marked increase in the number of police applications and a decrease in the number of private applications.
The number of PSIO breaches recorded between 2012 and 2020 increased by 373% to more than 4,300. This was thought to be due to more active police practices in responding to PSIO breaches
The report also found that over that time sentencing practices in respect of PSIO breaches changed significantly, with the rate of imprisonment increasing from 9% in 2014 to 35% in 2020. The rate of Community Correction Orders (CCOs) and fines for PSIO breaches declined, with 28% of matters dealt with by way of CCO in 2015 and only 11% in 2020 and 29% being dealt with by way of fines in 2013 and only 17% in 2020.
The changes to the court system brought by the COVID pandemic led to an increase in the number of interim PSIOs made by the court during 2020, and a decrease in the number of final PSIOs made that year, with interim orders becoming more necessary to ensure the protection affected persons until the matter could be finalised. There was also an increase in prison sentences for PSIO breaches during 2020, possibly a reflection of the court’s need to prioritise serious cases during COVID.
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