A FREO businesswoman who spent years bringing her monstrous step-father to justice for horrific sexual abuse says the system needs an overhaul after it left her unsupported and feeling like she was a nuisance.
Julie Morgan’s stepfather Victor Melville recently pleaded guilty to six historical child sex charges in New South Wales, but is out on bail in Western Australia while awaiting sentencing in October.
Melville had already served an eight year sentence in WA for crimes against Ms Morgan and her sister Lisa from the early 1980s, but she says a mistake on a Violence Restraining Order made by the Director of Public Prosecutions left her feeling inadequately protected.
“The VRO was useless as they had forgotten to tick the correct box that gave a distance,” Ms Morgan said.
“And it was left up to [me] to have to engage a lawyer and go back to court and face my abuser again.”
Ms Morgan says Melville’s bail conditions leave him relatively unimpeded and her sister recently had to abandon a day out after stumbling across him “sitting outside a restaurant with his nephew drinking wine and eating prawn pizza”.
“New South Wales has no control over him because he is here in WA [and] WA have told me that he is out of their jurisdiction, so they are unable to do anything with him,” she said.
According to a Department of Justice spokesperson, “if a person is convicted of a violent personal offence the court must make a Family Violence Restraining Order or a Violence Restraining Order as appropriate against the offender”.
Ms Morgan said even getting WA police assistance to get Melville to face his crimes in NSW was traumatic because they appeared inadequately resourced and lacked support mechanisms for victims.
She says on a number of occasions officers at the Fremantle Police Station sent her away because they were too busy or didn’t have someone qualified to take her statement.
“Through my experience having been at the Fremantle Police Station on multiple occasions to make these reports and having witnessed other people doing similar things, the lack of support for them is just not good enough,” she said.
“A lot of victims find that they go through a pretty traumatic experience to actually report it and it comes out to their family and then nothing happens to the perpetrator.”
“He got legal aid even though he is living in an apartment in Subiaco and he’s driving an Audi 6; he’s still able to get legal aid and use the system for himself yet the system isn’t working to support the victims,” Ms Morgan said.
Independent victims advocate Nicki Hide says she has also witnessed others encounter a similar experience.
“Shamefully it is an all too common occurrence for victims of sexual crimes to encounter further trauma by the way they are dealt with by WA Police and other government departments,” she said.
“Victims are forever having terms dictated to them by those in authoritarian positions such as police and the judiciary, who have absolutely no idea of what victims are going through.”
Ms Hide said more police officers were needed and that all police staff, including call centre operators and front counter staff, “must receive specific training on how to interact with sex crime victims and their families”.
The Fremantle Liberal party candidate Miquela Riley has taken up Ms Morgan’s cause and is putting extra local policing resources as her top campaign priority.
“We don’t have enough police in Freo. We have five less than the allocated number of police in our district at any given time,” Ms Riley said.
“Where that becomes particularly concerning in terms of looking after vulnerable community members, i.e. victims of sexual abuse, violence [and] victims of domestic violence, is if there is no one at the station to take a complaint, particularly if it’s a historical sex abuse complaint.”
WA police said historic sexual offences could be reported at any time and “Fremantle Police Station is adequately resourced to do so”.
The taking of a police statement often requires appointments to allow the allocation of proper resources,” the department said in a release to the Herald.
“In a police station arrangements may need to be made to ensure an interview room is free or the person taking the statement can do so without interruption.”
A justice department spokesperson said “while it is not appropriate for hte department to comment on the validity, appropriateness or correctness of an order of a judicial officer,” specific distancing arrangements were one of the options available to the court. Restraining orders are routinely applied as soon as someone is convicted of a violent sexual assault.
by EMINA HAJDAREVIC