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Inquiry into the support provided to victims of crime.

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

SUBMISSION
Image of Lili Greer speaking to camera on her submission to parliament

I lost my mum Tina Louise Greer to domestic violence at age thirteen. My mum was classified as missing for ten years, as her body was and has never been found. The main suspect Les Sharman was never formally interviewed by Queensland police. In 2022 the Coroner's Court accepted that Les Sharman (now deceased) murdered my mum in 2012 and deemed that an inquest would not be necessary, as it was not in the public interest.


Below is a summary of my experience as a related victim of crime over the past eleven years. My experience highlights the improvements that need to be made to how victims and related victims of crime are treated. Firstly, I will briefly outline my experiences with the Queensland Police, Coroners Court and Victims' Services, followed by recommendations that will help improve the services for future victims.

Queensland Police Service Support

In the initial years following my mum's disappearance, I was updated on the case via the news and radio. I was not made aware of the support services available as a 13-year-old, which was critical as I had no coping skills to deal with the unfolding events. My mother's abuser and murderer, Les Sharman, also visited where I was staying on several occasions. I felt unsafe, experienced nightmares, and engaged in risk-taking behaviours during this time. The lack of aftercare and support from QPS significantly impacted my mental health to the point where I often contemplated suicide.


I was unaware of any support services until 2020, eight years after my mum's disappearance and murder. Until the support of Queensland Victims' Homicide Support, the entire process was painstakingly isolating and traumatic to deal with alone.

Recommendation 1

To prevent further traumatisation, services for children must be made available such as a child support officer. This is critical as "youth who have experienced trauma are even more acutely affected" than adults (Adams 2010). A child support officer will be able to talk through the case appropriately and delicately, answer any questions, and provide necessary counselling and updates. Advice from Victims of Crime South Australia states that children at eleven years of age understand death similarly to adults (VOCSA 2023). Thus, it is paramount that their questions are answered honestly and their feelings acknowledged. By explaining the situation at a level, they can understand, children can appropriately cope with the situation. Rather than finding out later in life, which can cause further emotional disruption and hurt (VOCSA 2023).

Investigation

Les Sharman was a known criminal to the police and a Finks motorcycle gang member with violent tendencies. Although QPS had six years to interview the main suspect, this did not occur. I was only interviewed once in 2012, despite having the most contact with Sharman and Mum. No further interviews took place until after Sharman died in 2018. Moreover, I was not notified that the main suspect never gave a formal interview until after his death, nor was I provided an explanation for why he was never interviewed.


It has since been revealed by the DFVDRU Review of my mum's case that:

  • The police contact in this matter represents a significant missed opportunity for intervention.

  • Failure to thoroughly investigate matters and pursue criminal charges where appropriate. No evidence of any additional steps being taken to protect Tina from further harm despite the officer's assessment that it was likely she had and would experience violence in the relationship.

  • Evidence of poor policing attitudes towards victims of domestic and family violence, which may have influenced their response.


Recommendation 2

QPS is to adopt a person-centred approach towards victims and related victims. In cases where a full investigation could not be conducted, a person-centred approach would see QPS provide an explanation with legal backing (if requested) as to why the investigation has been unsuccessful (NDP 2016). Adopting a person-centred approach will decrease victims' risk of re-traumatisation and help them move forward (NSW Health 2022). As opposed to simply saying, "Nothing can be done".


Recommendation 3

To prevent significant missed opportunities and failures to pursue criminal charges, QPS and victims would benefit from an external body to review homicide & missing persons-related cases. I recommend that reviews occur every twelve to twenty-four months until the investigation is closed. This is because "there are many historical examples in Australia where significant elements of various police forces are demonstrably corrupt and where widespread misconduct was a day-to-day reality" (IBAC 2023). Moreover, a review from an independent body will prevent missed opportunities and maintain police accountability instead of relying on the potential of an inquest years after the crime.

The Queensland Coroners Court

Despite the concerns mentioned above and missed opportunities, in 2022, the Coroner's Court ruled that it was not in the public interest to hold an inquest into my mum's murder. I received this news via email without warning or support to go through the document.


During the appeal process, several coronial employees demonstrated little to no understanding of the nature and dynamics of domestic and family violence. Furthermore, in a subsequent letter from the Coroner denying an inquest, the Coroner stated that my mum's death was not preventable. However, numerous studies have affirmed that women who have separated from their partners are at higher risk of homicide victimisation by intimate partners than women in current relationships (Hotton 2001; Wilson & Daly 1993; Johnson & Hotton 2003; Wallace 1986; Barnard et al. 1982).


It took advocating for seven months, attaining 22,789 petition signatures (Change.Org 2022), and personally meeting with the Attorney General to prove that my mum's case was in the public interest. My experiences with the Coroners' Court are best summarised by the words of Freckelton, "coronial matters, if managed poorly, not only can generate secondary trauma but can be pathogenic" (2016, p.6).The post titled "A reply to the coroner", clearly demonstrates a lack of trauma-informed care and understanding of domestic and family violence.



Recommendation 4

Mandatory training and education of all Coroner's Court employees in domestic and family violence areas. Education and training will improve the service's ability to make educated coronial decisions and provide trauma-informed approaches to dealing with victims (ANROWS 2022). Without coronial support, the State sets a poor precedent for past, present, and future victims of domestic violence.


Recommendation 5

To ensure the Coroners Court aligns with trauma-informed practices before releasing sensitive information such as coronial reports, victims are to be contacted. During this call, victims/ related victims will be briefed about the nature of the information they will receive, their rights moving forward, and supports available like counselling and be allowed to ask any questions they may have (Freckelton 2016). Through this process, the Coroners Court will demonstrate its ability to "adhere to sensitive communications", which is necessary when dealing with families (Johnstone 2007).




Victims of Crime Assistance

Although the Coroner confirmed that my mum was murdered in 2012, this ruling did not happen until 2022. As my mum's body has never been found, she was technically a missing person for ten years. Due to this, I was ruled out of any victims of crime assistance on a technical basis. It is worth mentioning that during this time, she was a suspected victim of homicide, and had it not been for the significant missed opportunities in the investigation, it is likely this case would have been solved.


Recommendation 6

To prevent eligible victims from being technically ruled out of financial assistance, Victim Services is to create a special consideration category for victims and related victims who may be eligible under exceptional circumstances.


Summary

The current process and services set up to support victims are designed for individuals to fail. Throughout my mum's homicide investigation, it has been a continuous battle between traumatisation and fighting for justice, where I have been met with little to no empathy. It has been my responsibility to highlight the many injustices in my mum's case and advocate for its reopening rather than the QPS or the Corners Court.


In conclusion, to prevent further trauma and adverse impacts on victims and related victims of crime, I put forward the following recommendations to be considered.



1. Speciality services for children must be made available, such as child support officers. Who can discuss the case, answer any questions they may have, provide updates and give much needed counselling.


2. In circumstances where an investigation or prosecution cannot be carried out by QPS. QPS are to provide victims with an explanation with legal backing as to why an investigation or prosecution was not possible.


3. The establishment of an External board, `to review homicide & missing persons related cases every twelve to twenty-four months until the investigation closes. This is to prevent missed opportunities and maintain QPS accountability as opposed to relying on an inquest well after the fact.


4. Mandated training and education of all Coroners Court employees in areas of domestic and family violence.


5. Prior to the release of sensitive information such as coronial reports victims are to be contacted. During this call, victims will be briefed about the nature of the information they will receive, their rights moving forward, supports available, and be given the opportunity to ask any questions they may have.


6. Victim services to create a special consideration category for victims and related victims who may be eligible under special circumstances.



References

Adams, E.J. 2010, Healing Invisible Wounds: Why Investing in Trauma-Informed Care for Children Makes Sense, US department of justice, office of justice programs. Viewed April 12 2023.

ANROWS 2022, Two new reports contribute invaluable data to what we know about intimate partner homicide in Australia, Viewed April 11 2023, https://www.anrows.org.au/media-releases/two-new-reports-contribute-invaluable-data-to-what-we-know-about-intimate-partner-homicide-in-australia/ Barnard, G., Vera, H., Vera, M. & Newman, G. 1982, Till death do us part: A study of spouse murder, Bulletin of the American Association of Psychiatry and Law, vol. 10, pp. 271–80. Change.Org 2022, My mother was killed by her boyfriend. Inquest into Tina Greer’s murder. April 10 2023, https://www.change.org/p/my-mother-was-killed-by-her-boyfriend-inquest-into-the-murder-of-tina-greer. Freckelton, I. 2016, Minimising the counter-therapeutic effects of coronial investigations : in search of balance. QUT law review. [Online], vol. 16, no.3, pp. 4–29. Hotton, T. 2001, Spousal violence after separation, Juristat, vol. 21, no. 7, pp. 1–9. Independent broad-based anti-corruption commission, The importance of robust, independent police oversight, Victoria Viewed April 11 2023, https://www.ibac.vic.gov.au/publications-and-resources/ibac-insights/edition-9/the-importance-of-robust-independent-police-oversight


James, C. 2020, Towards trauma-informed legal practice: a review. Psychiatry, psychology, and law. [Online] vol. 27 no.2,pp. 275–299. Johnson, H. & Hotton, T. 2003, Losing control: Homicide risk in estranged and intact intimate relationships, Homicide Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 58–84. Johnstone, T. 2007, Adding the Human Dimension: The Future and a Therapeutic Approach to the Independent Work of the Coroner, Paper presented at the Asia-Pacific Coroners Society Conference, Hobart. National disability practitioners 2016, What is a person centred approach, Viewed April 11 2023, www.ndp.org.au/images/factsheets/346/2016-10-person-centred-approach.pdf. New South Wales Government 2022, What is a person-led approach?, NSW Health. Viewed April 10 2023, https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/mentalhealth/psychosocial/principles/Pages/person-centred.aspx. Victims of Crime, South Australia, Surviving after homicide, Viewed April 11 2023, https://www.voc.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/289678/Children_surviving_after_homicide.pdf. Wallace. A. 1986, Homicide: The Social Reality, New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Sydney.

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