2015 Churchill Fellowship Report: The Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship to examine innovative legal responses to intimate homicide in the UK, USA, Canada

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned ReportOther


This Report presents the findings of my 2015 Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship. Over a 7-week period I visited England, Scotland, United States and Canada to gather knowledge on what Australia could learn from comparative legal responses to intimate partner homicide specifically and family violence more broadly. While it is recognised that focusing on the law alone is not sufficient in improving responses to and the prevention of family violence in Australia, the criminal justice system provides a key opportunity to hold perpetrators to account, to acknowledge victimisation and ensure a person’s safety, and to send a clear message to the community that family violence – in all forms – is unacceptable.

The findings contained within this Report are relevant at the national level and to all Australian state and territory jurisdictions. 22 recommendations are made. These relate to changes to practice, policy and law in Australia and elsewhere. The need for further research in particular areas is also highlighted with the aim of improving the evidence base to inform and enhance legal responses to intimate partner violence.

This Report highlights the value of specialist court responses to intimate partner violence and the need for a nationally consistent approach to family and domestic violence death reviews. Some Australian state and territory jurisdictions have already made progress in both areas and that work should be encouraged. This Fellowship points to gaps in the Australian system and identifies particular opportunities to expand current approaches by learning from international practice. It is argued that there is a need to better integrate specialist court processes in Australia with the aim of minimising the complexities of court processes for victims of family violence.

This Report also urges caution in some areas. It does not recommend the introduction of a specific offence of family and domestic violence or controlling and coercive behaviour nor does it advocate for the introduction of a domestic violence disclosure scheme. In both cases it is recognised that the evidence base supporting the introduction of such reform is underdeveloped and that Australia should wait till the impacts of those reforms emerge in international research and practice.

In making these recommendations, this Fellowship Report aims to inform the much needed transformation of Australian legal responses to intimate partner violence with the aim of better serving the needs of victims, improving prevention practices and ensuring perpetrators are held to account. The Report emphasises that without adequate funding, dedicated resources and specialisation our criminal justice system will continue to provide inadequate responses to victims of family violence.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCanberra ACT Australia
PublisherWinston Churchill Trust
Commissioning bodyThe Winston Churchill Memorial Trust
Number of pages75
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • family violence
  • intimate partner violence
  • specialist courts
  • criminal offences
  • criminal law
  • criminal courts
  • domestic violence disclosure scheme

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