While most agencies and services we met with were aware that misidentification occurred, and had at least some local processes in place to respond to it, there was a distinct lack of clear data and regular monitoring, both at the local and system levels. This makes it difficult to clearly and accurately identify the extent of the issue and the effectiveness of any remedial processes that have been put in place.
Victoria Police completed an intelligence product on misidentification during 2021, which is an excellent resource but not widely available. We suggest the Victoria Police misidentification rate needs to be more closely and regularly tracked, and could include monitoring of the following:
- how often the affected family member and respondent roles are changed in the Family Violence Report at the sergeant review stage
- how often a new Family Violence Report is completed and why
- how often police withdraw an FVIO application or criminal charges in family violence cases and why
- misidentification notifications from other agencies and what Victoria Police does in response (for example, new Family Violence Report completed, withdrawal of an FVIO application, withdrawal of criminal charges, new application taken out against the actual perpetrator)
- evidence of police knowledge and understanding of family violence, including predominant aggressor identification.
Different agencies have different metrics they use to indicate that misidentification may have occurred, but there are no definitive measures. For example:
The Orange Door uses a client’s listing in the system as both respondent and affected family member to indicate misidentification but doesn’t capture ‘misidentification’ as the reason for a referral being reclassified.
- The Victims of Crime Helpline helpfully captures the proportion of clients who are recategorised (from victim survivor to perpetrator) and the reason for the recategorisation, but it would be useful to link this to the outcomes for that client.
- Specialist services have provided some anecdotal estimates about the incidence of misidentification, but it would be useful to officially track this within their information systems.
- At court, we know the rate at which applications are struck out or withdrawn, but it would be useful for the reasons to be recorded and to understand the rate at which family violence workers at court are picking up on misidentification.
- Child Protection has not previously been able to collect data about MARAM assessments conducted by practitioners for cases involving family violence, however from November 2021 they have the capacity to do so. The next step will be to capture how often misidentification is found to have occurred and the action taken in response.70 As this information becomes available, it could help identify important areas for system improvement.
We are aware of some good local qualitative practice to monitoring issues such as misidentification. For example, The Orange Door – Central Highlands team has monthly meetings with Victoria Police to flag thematic issues. Victoria Police also sits on The Orange Door’s Hubs Leadership Groups across the state, where issues such as misidentification can be discussed, although we were told that Victoria Police members have competing demands and attendance at these meetings differs by area.
As noted in the previous section, and given that this is a whole-of-system challenge, we suggest a whole-of-government effort is required to oversee the issue of misidentification and to monitor its prevalence [relates to action 2]. Opportunities to collate data from across agencies should be encouraged to piece together a picture of the prevalence of and responses to misidentification and the outcomes for those who have been misidentified. Special attention should be given to understanding the differing rates and experiences of misidentification among different cohorts to help inform more targeted training and practice guidance.
At a minimum, governance groups such as the Cross-Government Perpetrator Accountability Group and the Sector Perpetrator Accountability Group should have an interest in misidentification because it involves perpetrators escaping accountability for their use of violence and coercive control.
Misidentification often appears to stem from a lack of sufficient understanding of the dynamics of family violence and coercive control, with stakeholders indicating that despite training having been rolled out to large proportions of the Victoria Police and Child Protection workforces, this has not yet translated into consistent improvements in practice. There is a need for both organisations (and others implementing MARAM) to consider how they will assess, monitor and report on their workforce’s capability change [relates to action 14].
70 Work to develop the reporting capability in the Child Protection case management system is currently underway.