Levels of domestic violence in the Northern Territory are "horrendous" and there's little evidence law and order measures are having any impact, a coroner says.
22 Sep 2016 - 1:21 PM  UPDATED 22 Sep 2016 - 5:23 PM

Violence in Aboriginal communities, in particular, is "literally out of control" and women are living terrible lives and enduring horrifying deaths, Judge Greg Cavanagh says.

In his findings on two deaths, Judge Cavanagh says for many offenders jail is not a deterrent, alcohol is a major problem and domestic violence orders are ineffective.

"The circumstances of these two deaths reveal the stark reality that the criminal justice system fails to protect women from domestic violence," the judge said.

"That is to say, policing and punitive sentences do not provide an answer to stopping the violence."

Judge Cavanagh said addressing the important questions of why domestic violence happened and why it was getting worse was fundamental to finding the means to protect women.

"In my view some of the answers are likely to be found in the significant social-economic disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory," he said.

"All of those factors that go to make up that disadvantage are in the context of what is becoming a cycle of generational family violence."

In his inquest the coroner investigated the deaths of Wendy Murphy in 2014 and Natalie McCormack in 2015.

Ms Murphy, 36, had suffered through 45 episodes of domestic violence at the hands of her partner before he eventually killed her in a vicious and prolonged beating.

Ms McCormack, 31, suffered 32 episodes of violence before dying from what her partner told police were self-inflicted stab wounds.

Judge Cavanagh has referred her case back to NT police, believing offences may have been committed.

He recommended police pursue the use of body-worn cameras to capture evidence in cases of domestic violence and that they be given the power to target and monitor repeat offenders.

NT police say Body Worn Video (BWV) provide them with a multitude of benefits including gathering evidence, reducing the number of false complaints, decreasing the use of force, improving behaviour of suspects and offenders and will help to create a safer community.

All footage recorded on BWV is subject to legal safeguards and guidance set by the Information Act and Information Privacy Principles.

He also called on courts to ensure domestic violence matters were given priority and for the NT government to consider intervention strategies to better ensure the safety of victims.

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

Domestic Violence in the NT:

  • At least one child is subject to DFV violence every day of the year in the Northern Territory and a child witnesses a DFV incident at least 3 times every day of the year.
  • 20% of all Domestic and Family Violence offences result in an injury to the victim.
  • Peak periods of offending remain predictable. The highest month is December, and day Saturday.
  • Alcohol remains a primary factor and has a far reaching involvement in all aspects of DFV.
  • As per the current Police Practice and Procedure PROMIS requirements for Domestic and Family Violence, only matters confirmed as “Breach DVO” and “Disturbance – Domestic” were subject to analysis. To be able to provide further scrutiny on relevant DFV matters, only matters where an offence was attached were subject to inclusion.
  • With these boundaries established, a total of 74,811 DFV cases with offences attached were identified in this three year reporting period.


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