Emma Partridge - Crime
Apprehended violence orders taken out to protect children from physical and sexual abuse have soared 76 per cent in the past year across NSW.
The rise comes after senior officers were given new powers to issue on-the-spot AVOs instead of tracking down magistrates out-of-hours, police said.
Child-related AVOs rose from 487 to 843 in the past year to date, police statistics show.
NSW Police child abuse squad commander, Greig Newbery, says the dramatic increase is proof domestic violence often affects children, not just women in abusive relationships.
The rise in AVOs coincides with a 37 per cent increase in the number of people arrested for the physical and sexual abuse of children in the past year.
Detective Superintendent Newbery saidA lot of this is domestic violence.
Domestic violence doesn't just affect the husband and wife. It also relates to children.
New legislation and an extra 30 dedicated child abuse officers had helped to increase the number of orders taken out.
Child abuse detectives made 530 arrests in 2013 compared with 797 in 2014 to date.
Detective Superintendent Newbery said that, anecdotally, most offenders were non-biological parents or guardians.
The chief executive of the Association of Child Welfare Agencies, Andrew McCallum saidThe confronting statistics were actually a good sign.
I think we're more astute and in tune with the problem now
In the past police would have just referred these incidents to community services but are now making significant attempts, when they see people with alcohol or drug abuse or violence, to ask whether there are kids behind this behaviour.
Nurses, teachers and doctors were being trained to ask, "is there a child involved in this", whenever dealing with homelessness, alcohol abuse, mental illness or domestic violence.
"More than 90 per cent of victims are known to offenders."
He said investigations into child abuse were often made difficult when a parent was in denial about what their partner may have done to their child.
"It's difficult for investigators [and] sometimes there are [underlying] emotional and financial difficulties."
"In every circumstance where it is appropriate to take out an AVO, my staff will take one out."
He attributed the increase to new investigative tools and a rebranding of the squad which has helped to lift its profile.
"Building awareness of the issue a lot of people don't want to know about it. Sometimes [there is] a reluctance for people to accept this offending goes on," he said.
Mr McCallum said there was "always some positive when we know more about things, as long as we have the resources to do something about it".
"Are there services out there to actually provide the necessary follow-up in these situations?" he asked. "Because once they occur, they have lifelong consequences for children."
Detective Superintendent Newbery saidThere had also been increased education about reporting all child abuse matters to the Child Protection Helpline.
It was mandatory for police to alert the helpline if they were dealing with a matter involving the abuse of a child, allowing all agencies, including the Department of Family Services, to be involved.
The provisional AVOs introduced in May mean a defendant needed to appear before a local court within 28 days where they could apply to challenge to vary the order.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/childrelated-avos-in-nsw-rise-76-per-cent-after-police-given-new-powers-20141108-11dmtn.html#ixzz3Ia6IwSO1