Evaluation of the Fast Tracking Initiative in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria


Investigators: Associate Professor Silke Meyer, Dr Tess Bartlett, Professor Jude McCulloch, Professor JaneMaree Maher, Dr Zarina Vakhitova, Professor Kerry O'Brien, Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Dr Jasmine McGowan
Project contacts: Associate Professor Silke Meyer

Background

The MGFVPC was contracted in 2019 by the Magistrates' Court of Victoria (MCV) to conduct an evaluation of the Fast Tracking Initiative (FTI) in the MCV. MCV had been implementing a fast tracking initiative across multiple court locations since 2014 at that time. The aim of the fast tracking initiative was to have all criminal proceedings arising out of family violence incidents finalised within 16 weeks of entering the Court.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence (RCFV) noted that the fast tracking initiative was showing great potential to limit delays between the occurrence and final determination of a criminal offence. The Commission recommended that the fast tracking initiative be evaluated as soon as possible and, pending any serious difficulties identified by that evaluation, that expansion to suitable sites be considered.

Evaluation

The MGFVPC evaluated the FTI, using a mixed methods approach, including secondary court data analysis, court observations, legal practitioner surveys and stakeholder interviews. Participating stakeholders included Victoria Legal Aid, police (operational officers, police prosecutors and FV liaison officers), judicial officers, registrars, FV specialist support services and culturally and linguistically diverse support services.

Evaluation findings identified that the FTI achieved its main overarching objectives, including the shortening of court timeframes for FV criminal matters. Qualitative findings further revealed that key stakeholders believed the FTI improved victim-survivor and family safety, victim-survivor engagement with and confidence in court proceedings, community perceptions of FV and perpetrator accountability. The evaluation did not include the voices of victim-survivors due to its short engagement timeframe and funding guidelines. Future research therefore needs to investigate court user experiences with this initiative to further expand the evidence.

A full evaluation and summary report was delivered to MCV in December 2019. The report identified opportunities for improvement and future rollout of the FTI. Any queries regarding the current state of the initiative should be directed at MCV directly.