Police union causes outrage, claiming domestic violence complaints ‘made up’

The union representing Queensland’s police officers has been criticised for claiming some people seek domestic violence orders to gain an advantage in family law disputes.

Jul 16, 2021, updated Jul 16, 2021
Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers. (AAP Image/Darren England)

The Queensland Police Union is aware of such claims against its own members, it says in a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry considering a change to the Family Law Act.

“There seems to be a perception that having a state-based domestic and family violence order will benefit a party to federal litigation,” the submission reads.

“The (Queensland Police Union) is aware of a number of occasions where this practice has occurred, against its own members.”

But experts say false allegations are less common than the problem of genuine victims who fail to report abuse.

The union’s submission was “extremely concerning” and “factually incorrect”, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia CEO Hayley Foster said.

At most three-in-10 domestic violence victims report to police, often because of previous poor experiences with police, she said.

“The evidence base shows that people using violence and abuse are much more likely to make erroneous and vexatious claims against the target of their abuse,” Foster said.

The myth that women make false domestic violence claims to get an advantage in family court proceedings puts women and children in danger, Women’s Legal Service Queensland spokesperson Julie Sarkozi says.

“Women are less likely to get the protection that they need because when they actually do raise their own safety concerns and the concerns for their children they’re not believed. They are treated as being suspicious and doing this for an advantage in family court,” she said.

Research shows the union’s claims are false, Queensland’s DV Connect deputy CEO Kelly-Ann Tansley said.

She works daily with “fantastic” police in Queensland, but says there are still cultural issues in understanding domestic and family violence.

Tansley questioned whether the union’s submission represented the views of all its members, especially women.

Union president Ian Leavers gave evidence to the inquiry on Wednesday, telling MPs his organisation believes people are making false domestic violence claims.

“Sadly on occasions … the systems are abused to further another matter before the courts,” he said.

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Union solicitor Calvin Gnech said he saw “multiple instances per year” of false claims being made against serving police officers.

“Officers’ careers are put on hold when domestic violence applications are made against them,” he said.

“There are instances where the other party, knowing that that detriment occurs, makes those applications and it has to be fought out in the court,” he said.

Foster said the union’s claims undermined confidence in police.

“The suggestion is that women who are experiencing abuse are a bunch of liars. How is that going to instil confidence in the Queensland Police Service?”

The inquiry is considering whether federal courts should be able to issue family violence orders.

The union argues that where there are family law proceedings, the federal court should deal with any violence claims so state courts can’t be abused.

Foster said the suggestion people going through family courts shouldn’t be able to access a state’s criminal justice system was “obscene” and “outrageous”.

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