Select Committee on the high level of First Nations people in custody and oversight and review of deaths in custody: report

On 23 October 2020, RLC police accountability solicitor Samatha Lee appeared before the Select Committee on the high level of First Nations people in custody and oversight and review of deaths in custody.

Ms Lee's comments were included among comments cited in the Select Committee report, published on 15 April 2021.

…the  Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety indicated that 'an increasing issue that contributes to women's imprisonment is the misidentification of the predominant aggressor'. It said that 'treating victims of violence as perpetrators undermines their confidence in the legal system, denies the victim/survivor appropriate support, and can make them less likely to report violence enacted against them in the future'.

 

127 2.69 The Women's Legal Service NSW also highlighted its concerns about the number of women in custody who have been misidentified by police and the courts as offenders. It suggested that 'there is growing evidence that at least half of female perpetrated domestic violence occurs in circumstances where the women are the persons most in need of protection but have been misidentified as aggressors'.

 

128 2.70 Ms Jones commented that this has been an issue that they have been focused on for decades and described a common story that they hear from women they work with in prison: They have often been in a circumstance where there has been a domestic violence incident and police have been called. The male person in the household has manipulated the evidence, has lied about what has happened and has sometimes injured themselves and told police that the woman did it. Sometimes we know that the way that women fight back is to pick up a weapon like a knife or something a little bit more heavy-handed that they can use because they do not physically have the capacity to dominate a male person that has been scaring them, intimidating them or threatening their children or animals.

 

129 2.71 Ms Samantha Lee, Solicitor, Redfern Legal Centre, provided similar evidence, advising that they have women contact their service telling them that they have rung police during a domestic violence dispute and the police come to their place of residence, speak to the husband and then form the view that they are going to accept the husbands story over the woman's story. Ms Lee said that 'what they do is they end up arresting the person who has called 000 and then they place them into custody'...

 

Download the report (New South Wales Parliament. Legislative Council, April 2021)