The DV nightmare haunting our courts

 

A BRISBANE magistrate says that since Hannah Clarke's murder her colleagues lie awake at night worrying if domestic violence offenders they release on bail will harm their families.

Ms Clarke's husband Rowan Baxter killed her and their three children, Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3, in a grisly murder-suicide at Camp Hill on February 19 after setting their car on fire.

Baxter had a history of violence and was on a domestic violence order as well as child custody orders as recently as the month of the murders.

Magistrate Deborah Vasta said she and her colleagues see every domestic violence victim as potentially the next Hannah Clarke.

 

Hannah and her young son Trey.
Hannah and her young son Trey.

She made the comments in the Cleveland Magistrates Court after ruling a man be released from Woodford Correctional Centre despite multiple breaches of his DVO.

But Ms Vasta said she was concerned the man, 41, whose relationship of 19 years had ended badly 18 months ago, could be in jail until next year before his trial was heard.

He had already spent 57 days in custody.

She ordered he wear an ankle bracelet, which would alert police if he approached his former partner, and warned him he would be in contempt of court if he didn't charge it for two hours every day.

"I would like (his ex) to sleep at night, I would like your kids to sleep at night, I would like to sleep at night,'' Ms Vasta told the defendant.

"We see every victim as (potentially) the next Hannah Clarke and every perpetrator as the next Rowan Baxter.''

Ms Vasta said she was a fan of ankle bracelets, which she said had the capability to detect alcohol or illicit drugs in sweat on the skin.

They also had the capability to be used as tasers, although that was not permitted in Queensland.

"It would have been useful to have used the taser capability in the Hannah (Clarke) case,'' Ms Vasta said.

She told the defendant he had repeatedly breached court orders not to contact his ex-partner and the breaches had gradually worsened in terms of their threatening behaviour.

The police prosecutor said they strenuously opposed bail.

‘I would like to sleep at night’: Brisbane magistrate Deborah Vasta.
‘I would like to sleep at night’: Brisbane magistrate Deborah Vasta.

They told the court that in September last year the defendant texted this message: "What would happen if I had a knife in my hand? Keep it up and you will suffer more than me.''

In November last year, the police prosecutor said the man approached his ex-partner's vehicle and on March 10 he went to a school attended by one of his two children.

"That sends shivers down the spine of a lot of people. It makes my blood run cold,'' Ms Vasta said.

But Ms Vasta said the defendant could "not be locked up forever'' and one of the six charges against him, stalking, had to be dealt with in the District Court.

That charge could take six to nine months to be heard.

She ordered the defendant be transferred from Woodford Correctional Centre to the Caboolture watch-house to have an ankle bracelet fitted.

Lloyd and Suzanne Clarke at a vigil after the murder of their daughter and grandchildren. Picture: John Gass/AAP
Lloyd and Suzanne Clarke at a vigil after the murder of their daughter and grandchildren. Picture: John Gass/AAP

She warned him his movements would be tracked by satellite, every 10 seconds, with an alert relayed to Queensland police if he entered the restricted radius she imposed.

It came as Hannah Clarke's parents, Sue and Lloyd Clarke, last night opened up about the emotional rollercoaster of coming to terms with the death of their daughter and grandchildren, telling Channel 7 Brisbane they were taking things "one day at a time".

"Some days we struggle, some days we're okay" Mrs Clarke said.

"The tears are always just there."

 

Originally published as The DV nightmare haunting our courts



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