Criminology lecturer Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon has been awarded the prestigious Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship for 2015.
The Fellowship will allow Dr Fitz-Gibbon to visit the UK, United States and Canada in 2016 on a fact-finding mission to examine innovative legal responses to the prevention of intimate homicide.
This research builds on Dr Fitz-Gibbon’s expertise in homicide law, law reform and legal responses to lethal domestic violence.
Dr Fitz-Gibbon says that the issue of domestic violence has gained increasing prominence in the Australian community over the past five years with family violence declared a national emergency in Australia in 2014.
“Each week, in Australia, at least one woman is killed by her current or former partner,” she explained.
“We need to ensure that the courts are as effective as possible in early-stage interventions when cases of domestic violence are bought to their attention.”
Dr Fitz-Gibbon hopes to learn more about the divergent approaches to the prevention of future violence in domestic violence cases in court systems in the UK, United States, and Canada.
“In England and Wales, for example, a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship was introduced in 2015,” she said.
“In Canada, a domestic violence death review committee has been in place for over 10 years and is considered one of the most effective worldwide. The role of the committee is to examine in detail domestic homicides and pick them apart – by looking at past deaths and learning lessons from them, we may be able to more effectively prevent future deaths.
“While some jurisdictions in Australia have a domestic violence death review committee, many do not or, if they do, it is significantly under-resourced.
“I will also spend some time in New York, where I will examine the integrated domestic violence courts model.”
Dr Fitz-Gibbon’s research will engage those involved in advocating, introducing and implementing these reforms and committees to gauge whether similar laws would be of value in the Australian context.
Dr Fitz-Gibbon explains that this research is vital to enhancing legal practice across Australia.
“Improving legal responses will benefit the entire Australian community by ensuring effective intervention occurs at the earliest stage possible, opportunities for prevention are identified where possible and that best practice is achieved at a justice stage,” she said.
About the Churchill Trust
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was established in April 1965, soon after Sir Winston Churchill’s death on 24 January that same year. Since then, more than 4,000 Australians have received Memorial Fellowships, known as ‘Churchill Fellowships’, to explore a subject of merit for the benefit of Australian communities. The Churchill Fellowships are valued at an average of $25,000 each.