Family Violence Offenders Are More Likely to Reoffend than Other Offenders

Media Release

Embargoed until 10:00 p.m. (AEST) Monday 22 August 2016

People who breach family violence intervention orders are more likely to reoffend than the general criminal population, according to a new study by the Sentencing Advisory Council.

The Council studied factors associated with reoffending and prior offending for the 1,898 offenders sentenced for breaching a family violence intervention order or family violence safety notice in Victoria in the financial year 2009–10. Offending by this group was examined for the five years before and the five years after 2009–10. The 1,898 offenders were sentenced for 28,749 charges (of any kind) over the 11-year study period.

People sentenced for breaching a family violence order had a higher five-year reoffending rate (53%) than offenders in general (37%). Over half of the family violence offenders had prior convictions (58%).

Almost half of the family violence offenders were sentenced for violent offending before or at their 2009–10 sentence, and prior violence was associated with a higher reoffending rate.  Of the 61 offenders with four or more prior convictions for assault-related offences or threat to kill/injure offences, ninety per cent reoffended.

The study reveals that:

  • the two most common types of reoffending were further breach of an intervention order (24% of offenders reoffended with this offence type) and assault/cause injury (22%)
  • 86% of people sentenced for breaching family violence orders were male.

Differences in offending associated with the age and gender of offenders included that:

  • male offenders were more likely than female offenders to have prior offences and were more likely to reoffend
  • the victims of male offenders were more likely to be current or former partners (82%) than were victims of female perpetrators (54%). Other victims included parents and siblings
  • offenders aged 18–24 were more likely to reoffend than offenders aged 25 or older.

Offenders who were fined in 2009–10 for breaching a family violence order were less likely to pay their fines (48% paid) than the general offender population who were fined in the same year (56% paid). Non-payment was associated with an increased risk of reoffending: 57% of the family violence offenders who did not pay their fine reoffended, compared with 44% of those who fully paid.

Of the offenders who were fined for breaching a family violence order, one in six had an assault-related charge (or charges) sentenced at the same time (75 offenders).

Overall, more than half of the offenders were sentenced for at least one assault-related offence in the 11-year study period. The more often an offender was sentenced for breaching an intervention order during the study period, the more likely that offender was to also be sentenced for an assault/cause injury offence (against anyone) in the same period.

Over two-thirds (68%) of young adult (18–24) male offenders and 59% of young adult female offenders were sentenced for at least one assault-related offence in this period.

The Deputy-Chair of the Council, Lisa Ward, said: ‘The Council found that young adult family violence offenders were more likely to reoffend and more likely to be convicted of assault-related offences. These findings support the development of more targeted measures to address family violence by young people, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The findings of this study are particularly timely in light of the current review of the Victorian Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework.

‘This study also shows that the majority of people who breach family violence intervention orders have a propensity for violence. Therefore, it is crucial that the sentencing exercise is treated as an opportunity to address offenders’ behaviour.

‘The use of fines for some of these cases is concerning. In many cases, fines are not an effective sentence, especially for offenders with a history of violence and those who repeatedly breach orders. Fines do little to manage the risk that an offender poses to their family and the community. Where fines are unpaid, the offender effectively goes unpunished.’

Contravention of Family Violence Intervention Orders and Safety Notices: Prior Offences and Reoffending is available from the Council’s website.