Family violence: Children most at risk from mothers

By Hayden Donnell

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Children are far more likely to be killed by their mothers than any other category of offender, a new police review of family violence cases shows.

Police have released a review of the circumstances surrounding 95 family violence incidents which caused 101 deaths since 2004.

The report is not an exhaustive analysis of family violence incidents, but does provide information about trends in offending.

It found mothers killed 15 of the 33, or 45 per cent, of the child victims identified in the report - far more than any other category of offender.

In five cases, the mother concealed her pregnancy and then killed the baby after birth. The other children killed by their mothers died by drowning, physical assault or in a murder/suicide.

Nearly 80 per cent of the child victims lived in the same house as their attacker and many had significant historical injuries.

Police said incapable parenting was a factor in a number of the family violence deaths of babies or young children.

"In these cases the issues were less to do with criminal intent, but rather that the parent(s) simply did not have adequate parenting capability."

The report also looked at the family violence deaths of 31 men and 37 women.

It found 92 per cent of women were killed by men, including more than 80 per cent who died at the hands of an "intimate partner".

In half of those cases there had been previous reported family violence between the victim and the suspect.

Male victims in the report were more likely to be killed by another man.

Four men were killed by the ex-partner of a woman they had started a new relationship with.

Police had prior involvement with the families involved in 61 of the 95 cases, while other agencies had been involved in 23 cases.

In many cases, apparent various agencies held information showing a victim was at risk but did not share it with police or other agencies until after a death, the report said.

It called on agencies to change risk assessment processes for family violence and to encourage further reporting of offending.

National Crime Manager Detective Superintendent Rod Drew said police were striving to lower the family violence death rate.

"We don't do everything right, all the time. Family Violence Death Reviews are a way of asking ourselves what we could do better.

"The reviews are used as resource for family violence staff around the country."

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