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Crime, Women

Securing women’s lives: new report examines intervention points and perpetrator risk in intimate femicide cases in Australia

Monash University 3 mins read

In Australia, at least one woman a week is murdered by their current or former partner. In the first five months of 2024 alone, an unusually high number of killings allegedly by men’s violence in Australia has reignited national attention over the need to better address women’s risk of fatal violence. 

A new report from Monash University examines judicial sentencing remarks from 235 cases of men who have been convicted in Australia for killing their current or former female intimate partners over a decade. 

The report, Securing women’s lives: Examining system interactions and perpetrator risk in intimate femicide judgments over a decade in Australia, scrutinised judicial understandings of risk and system interactions prior to the intimate femicide in order to build better understandings of early intervention and the prevention of women's deaths in Australia.  

The sentencing judgments were analysed, in part, to identify potential points of intervention that might have provided an opportunity to prevent such killings. The study was undertaken by a team of researchers, including Professors Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Sandra Walklate, JaneMaree Maher, Jude McCulloch and Dr Jasmine McGowan.

Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon, who led this research, said the study findings indicate that few intimate femicides occur without prior system interaction.

"Our research finds that many of these deaths could have been prevented. The majority of perpetrators featured in these judgments had known histories of violence and in many cases, different points of the system were aware of the violence within the intimate partner relationship,” Professor Fitz-Gibbon said. 

"Our study supports recent calls across Australia for a greater focus on the perpetrators of this violence. All Australian state and territory jurisdictions need to embed effective perpetrator risk identification, assessment and management practices.”

The analysis revealed significant patterns in perpetrator histories prior to committing intimate femicide, both in terms of histories of domestic violence and histories of broader criminal activity. Sixty five per cent of offenders had a prior conviction for a criminal offence and 34 per cent of offenders had a prior conviction for a domestic violence related incident.  

The research also looked at perpetrators’ interactions with other support services. In 53 per cent of intimate femicide sentencing judgments analysed, the judge cited that the perpetrator had a history of alcohol abuse, 41 per cent of offenders had a history of drug abuse and 46 per cent had a history of mental illness. 

“These findings highlight the critical role of other services and intervention points beyond the criminal justice system in preventing intimate partner violence. Preventing escalation of harm and death requires a whole of system effort,” Professor Fitz-Gibbon said. 

The research also found that 10 per cent of offenders were on bail or parole at the time of the intimate femicide. In cases where an offender was on bail at the time of their lethal violence, this was cited as an aggravating factor during the sentencing process – particularly where the bail conditions had been put in place specifically to secure improved safety for the victim. 

Professor Sandra Walklate, the international partner investigator on this project from University of Liverpool (UK), commented: 

“These findings have international ramifications. They encourage a more holistic approach to early intervention, which focuses on what systems already know about men’s violence. Without this little will change,” she said.

The analysis also found that in 29 per cent of the cases the offender had experienced intergenerational violence. This is a relatively unexplored factor in research on men’s use of fatal intimate partner violence. 

"Understanding the life histories and trauma backgrounds of men who commit intimate femicide is critical as it assists us to better understand earlier points of intervention, and ultimately prevention of lethal violence," Professor Fitz-Gibbon said. 

The findings in this study build on the important work undertaken by the- Australian domestic and family violence death review network, as well as state and territory death review teams, by contributing new evidence to inform effective prevention of intimate partner violence and femicide.

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Media Enquiries:

Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon

Report lead author

T: +61 412 339 243

E: kate.fitzgibbon@monash.edu 

 

Kim Loudon

Monash University Communications Manager

T: +61 458 281 704

E: kim.loudon@monash.edu

 

For more Monash media stories, visit our news and events site: https://www.monash.edu/news

For any other topics on which you may be seeking expert comment, please contact the Monash University Media Unit on +613 9903 4840 or media@monash.edu

 

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