Family violence death toll revealed

Nearly 50 per cent of children who die as a result of family violence are killed by their mothers, a police report says.

Police today released a report summarising the findings of 95 family violence death reviews involving 101 victims between 2004 and 2011.

The report, which did not include all deaths that occurred during that period, found 15 out of 33 child victims were killed by their mums.

Five newborn babies were killed by women who concealed their pregnancies, while six children were killed by their mothers prior to them committing suicide.

The most common cause of death was head trauma. Suffocation or drowning by the mother was also on the list.

National crime manager Detective Superintendent Rod Drew said the reviews provided police and other agencies with valuable information about the circumstances surrounding family violence deaths.
"Police are first on the scene of a family violence death, we carry out the investigation and we are in a unique position to examine the events leading up to the death".

"The aim of every review is to prevent the same set of circumstances leading to tragedy for other families," Drew said.

The report also found around one third of victims were in each category of men, women and children.

More than 80 per cent of women's deaths were a result of partner violence - compared to 29 per cent of men - representing 57 per cent of all adult family violence deaths.

Women (65 per cent) and children (91 per cent) were commonly killed by people who lived in the same house.

While men (48 per cent) were mostly killed by people outside their immediate family.

Stab wounds were most common in adult deaths, followed by head trauma and gun shot wounds.

In 21 per cent of children's cases and 35 per cent of women's cases, family and friends were aware of the violence, but did not report it.

The report also found in 64 per cent of all cases there was prior police contact with the family.

Drew said a number of changes have been made to the way police respond to family violence that address the findings in the report.

In July, police began to use the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Analysis (ODARA), an internationally-recognised risk scoring tool, at every incident involving partner violence.

They had also developed a Child Risk Factor Tool (CRFT), which staff began using earlier this year to help predict the risks for children.

"We believe this tool is the only one of its kind in the world," Drew said.

Police are also able to order someone to leave the premises for up to five days thanks to police safety orders (PSOs) which were implemented two years ago.

"We have made significant improvements to inter-agency collaboration since the earliest family violence death reviews were carried out in 2004," Drew said.

"All districts now participate in regular inter-agency meetings to decide how best to help high-risk families and individuals stop the cycle of offending.

Though police didn't do everything right all the time, they were striving to improve their response to family violence, he said.

Top 15 suspect/victim relationships

Relationship Suspect / Victim / Number of victims

Defacto husband / Defacto wife: 11
Mother / Daughter: 10
Husband / Wife: 8
Ex Boyfriend / Ex Girlfriend: 6
Stepfather / Stepson: 6
Defacto wife / Defacto husband: 6
Mother / Son: 5
Suspect not identified: 4
Boyfriend / Girlfriend - not living together: 3
Father / Daughter: 3
Brother / Brother: 3
Husband / wife's new partner: 2
Stepfather / stepdaughter: 2
Son / Father: 2
Stepson / Stepfather: 2