The 300: Qld's worst DV offenders in police sights

 

Police are visiting the state's 300 worst repeat domestic violence offenders in a statewide operation to break their "chronic" cycle of continuous offending.

Officers are targeting 319 people with three or more domestic violence orders, with one so bad they have seven orders with different partners.

"What it demonstrates to us is these are chronic and prolific domestic and family violence offenders," State Domestic, Family Violence and Vulnerable Persons Unit Inspector Ben Martain said.

"They move from one vulnerable relationship to the next.

"What it has shown is traditional criminal justice responses and even policing responses have had a limited deterrent effect."

Acting Sergeant Josh Bull, Acting Senior Sergeant Rowena Hardiker and Inspector Ben Martain are part of Operation Sierra Alessa, which is cracking down on the state's worst DV offenders. Picture: Liam Kidston
Acting Sergeant Josh Bull, Acting Senior Sergeant Rowena Hardiker and Inspector Ben Martain are part of Operation Sierra Alessa, which is cracking down on the state's worst DV offenders. Picture: Liam Kidston

Insp Martain said the focus of the operation codenamed Sierra Alessa was to talk to DV offenders, disrupt their behaviour and refer them and victims to support agencies.

"There has been reports of aggrieved being told what to wear, how to have their hair cut, being forced to dye their hair a certain colour," he said of domestic violence cases in Queensland.

"A respondent had manipulated the microphone of his spouse's phone so that she was unable to make telephone calls.

"What she was able to do is use the online reporting via the QPS website for police assistance, we were able to send a police crew out there, we investigated and we were able to charge him with breaching that DVO."

Coercive and controlling behaviour was commonplace in investigations.

"Spyware is being uploaded to phones, the phones are being activated so that a respondent can listen in anywhere, anytime," Insp Martain said.

Police had donated phones to the Red Rose Foundation where victims could get a new one.

The operation comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic and in the wake of the murder of Hannah Clarke and her children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, in February and the 2015 murder of Tara Brown.

Insp Martain said the reception from repeat offenders had been varied.

"What we've found with these respondents who have multiple partners who move from relation to relationship, many of the victims don't know that their partner has had four, five, six, sometimes seven prior DVOs against them," he said.

Insp Martain said police were investigating links between an increase in DV incidents and the COVID-19 pandemic.

DV breaches increased 22 per cent, comparing the 2019 and 2020 March-June periods, but police and private applications have decreased.

"We've got people working from home, people who don't have the same social constructs, the ability to go to work, seek assistance from friends and colleagues," he said.

Some of the respondents on the police radar had previous history for strangulation offences which was a "significant predictor of more serious DV".

Police had found DV offenders were often involved in the "full suite of criminal offending" and officers were targeting them for a range of crimes.

"Traffic offences, drug offences, some of these respondents have links with outlaw motorcycle gangs," Insp Martain said.

"If they aren't willing to change their behaviours, we will enforce traffic violations, we will enforce outstanding warrants, we will look at more broadly whether they're wanted for other offences."

The unit's acting Senior Sergeant Rowena Hardiker said the majority of respondents approached had been positive and had told officers of their financial situation, new and previous relationships and mental health which in turn helped police in monitoring them.

"By far the majority have wanted a referral to different services," Sen-Sgt Hardiker said.

The majority were living with people with whom they had orders with.

Dealing with the offenders had been rewarding and insightful for officers.

"Even though these people may have committed serious criminal offences, when you speak to someone and they're not in that moment of crisis, it's actually quite an eye-opening experience because you can understand more about the person and have a more meaningful conversation," she said.

One DV respondent was angry when police first spoke with him but later apologised and said "I'm a simple man", Insp Martain said, while another had asked to be referred for alcohol abuse.

"What we've determined is … these respondents by virtue of the fact of their previous pattern of behaviour are very, very, likely in the absence of some form of intervention to continue with that pattern of behaviour," he said.

Originally published as The 300: Our worst DV offenders in police sights


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