One of Victoria’s highest ranking police officers has apologised to Rosie Batty, the mother of murdered schoolboy Luke Batty, at an inquest into her son’s death.
The 11-year-old was killed by his father, Greg Anderson, after cricket training at Tyabb Cricket Ground in February.
At the time, there were several outstanding arrest warrants against Anderson and several intervention orders.
A child protection case on Luke had been closed in the months before he died.
At the hearing Assistant Commissioner for Melbourne’s South Metro Region Luke Cornelius told Ms Batty that Chief Commissioner Ken Lay had told him to convey “our deepest condolences and our sorrow at your tragic loss”.
Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said Luke’s death had been “a source of deep regret and pain” for himself and his officers.
He said the hoped the family violence system could be improved to stop “this terrible behaviour by men … perpetuated on people they profess to love”.
Assistant Commissioner Cornelius manages the region in which Anderson’s offending played out leading up to Luke’s murder.
He acknowledged that Luke’s father “would not have been at the top of the file”.
“He certainly would have been someone who would have attracted our interest … he did attract our interest,” he said.
“But I have to say he certainly wouldn’t be at the top end.”
New approach to tackle family violence
The senior officer also said he had come to the conclusion that “no matter how effective our system is”, it could not stop potential murderers.
“If a man has murder in his heart, if he intends, for whatever reason, to cause harm to a victim, especially his children, we are not going to be able to prevent the deaths … we simply won’t be able to account for it,” he said.
But he told the inquest, it was clear a traditional “one size fits all approach” to domestic violence policing would fail the community.
“After Luke’s tragic death, I went to bed that night not knowing how many other Lukes were out there … and that troubled me greatly.”
Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said it was important to note that police were “not social workers”.
But he said it was clear a new approach to tackling the state’s high volume of family violence approach was needed.
He said that family violence matters made up 40 per cent of all crimes against the person.
At the South Metro region’s Cranbourne office alone, there were more than 400 serious, repeat family violence offenders on the books at any one time, he told the court.
“There’s a very clear gap in capacity” between the specialist unit and the volume of cases, he said.
But Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said there had been a “very significant cultural shift” away from a traditional model of policing.
“A one size fits all approach isn’t a way for us to manage risk,” he said.
“The commodification of our victims devalues the voice of our victims and it puts our victims on a one-track approach.
“We need to be taking time to get to know the victim over time.”
Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said there also needed to be an overhaul of risk assessment reports, known as L17 forms.
“They generate significant challenges, especially in child protection,” he said.
“They contain a significant amount of what might be characterised as white noise.”
He said the amount of effort required to keep up with the volume of cases presented “an almost insurmountable challenge”.
He said Victoria Police, lead by the chief commissioner and in partnership with the Victorian Government, was committed to forming a dedicated family violence command to provide “a single point of accountability”
on the issue.
“After Luke’s tragic death, I went to bed that night not knowing how many other Lukes were out there,” he said.
“I didn’t know…and that troubled me greatly.”
The inquest continues.