Domestic Violence and Coronial Inquests law
The Coroner can hold inquest into deaths for matters where there is a question that remains unclear on the ‘manner and cause’ of the death.
The Coroner also must hold inquest on a mandatory basis for deaths in custody, deaths of person who are in care (ie. A child who is in state care) and deaths involving advancing the ‘public interest’.
It is critical to understand that the definition of ‘public interest’ is quite wide and involves ‘systemic change’.
Another death that Coroner’s are required to investigate include the deaths of persons in domestic violence related fatalities.
Domestic violence related deaths include partners, children who are directly affected by a single or series of domestic violence related deaths.
Statistics on domestic violence deaths in Australia:
- In 2015 -78 women have died as a result of violence, with an estimated 80 per cent of the deaths a result of domestic or family violence
- The latest data from the Australian Institute of Criminology says 47 women died from intimate partner homicide in 2011-12.
- That equates to one woman dying from intimate partner homicide every seven-to-eight days in 2011-12.
Domestic violence can affect the lives of children.
Other issues that come about from Domestic violence include the way a series of problems seem to emerge and cause a pattern of behaviour leading to fatal circumstances.
I had the experience of representing a young persons family in coronial proceedings, where the young person was spray-painting his tag on the internal walls of a train line and was hit by a train where he was fatally killed.
His mother is an indigenous person, with a history of living in violent relationships, living in shelters and ultimately finding it difficult to both take care of herself and her son.
At the time of her son’s death she had little knowledge of her son’s absence until the police later identified his remains.
His friends also reluctantly later reported the matter to the police and it was found that the deceased and his friends were loitering about the train lines in the inner Sydney CBD area and decided to jump the fence.
The Coroner considered the way the fence lines were penetrated and didn’t adequately provide barriers.
The children easily managed to walk to the actual train lines and graffiti tags on the walls at which point a train came through and hit one of the teenagers who couldn’t manage to escape the tunnel area he was tagging. Given the state of the body after the accident the police could not identify the deceased.
The friends of the boy fled in fear and after some time approached the police with their parents.
This trauma will forever be ingrained in the minds of these boys.
The deceased was just 15 years old and was not at school or under any supervision or guidance.
From this case it was clear that young clients face difficulties with not having access to funds or the ability to earn funds or access social security.
It is apparent that this can cause tension between a young person and the adult/authority figure that can lead to further problems of domestic violence, tension, frustration among adolescence wanting to be able to be independent.
It seems apparent that young persons can also act out’ by then feeling isolated and facing peers, sadly committing offences (minor graffiti matters etc).
The question remains, is a child from a unstable and violent home the indirect victim of domestic violence?