Page 2594 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 11 August 2015

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There is also a significant effort in ACT Health to address the effects of domestic and family violence on children and young people, and to implement early intervention strategies where possible. One immediate area of action is in maternity services. The National Clinical Practice Guidelines for Antenatal Care state that “domestic violence is relatively common during pregnancy” and that the “frequency and severity of violence may be higher during pregnancy” than at other times. ACT Health has indicated that in an effort to address this issue, the updated Women’s Hand Held Maternity Record will include a requirement that practitioners such as nurses or midwives screen all women presenting for antenatal care for exposure to violence.

The DVPC recommended that perpetrator programs in the Alexander Maconochie Centre and community-based programs should be mandatory. The government agrees in part with this recommendation and recognises the benefit of programs relating to domestic and family violence, including sexual assault, being delivered in these programs.

The government supports the use of sentence administration mechanisms to promote offender participation in programs deemed appropriate by Corrective Services. However, the government does not support mandatory programs for offenders who are serving a sentence of imprisonment.

There needs to be a range of efforts made to make sure that offenders are motivated when serving a sentence of imprisonment to be assessed as suitable for a program to engage with rehabilitation, and that this be done on a voluntary basis, including through case management and the availability of incentives. There is, however, evidence indicating that enforcing mandatory participation can be counter-therapeutic.

Before ACT Corrective Services recommends or offers programs, a number of complex factors need to be considered, including the nature of the offending, the length of the sentence, the results of risk assessments undertaken in relation to the offender and, most importantly, the offender’s readiness to change, their mental health status and their attitude to rehabilitation.

A number of programs are available for perpetrators where they are assessed as suitable. These include the domestic abuse program, which is targeted at men who are convicted of a domestic abuse offence against their current or recent ex-partner. The program aims to address issues within relationships, whether the victim of the offence is a current or past partner, and explores links between behaviours, thoughts and feelings in relation to offending, leading to a model of accepting responsibility and victim safety.

Where an offender serving a community-based sentence for a domestic or family violence offence is found suitable and has been directed to participate, participation in a relevant program becomes mandatory. The consequence of non-compliance is breach proceedings before either the court or the Sentence Administration Board. ACT Corrective Services also reports any domestic and family violence program participation of offenders in custody to the board to ensure that potential community rehab opportunities are carefully considered, should the offender be released on parole.

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