Today ABC News has reported on a Perth man who has been charged $2000 for planting a GPS tracking device on the car of his “mistress” after their 8 year affair ended. The man was initially charged with stalking the woman but on the day the trial started he pleaded guilty to the charge concerning the device.
The magistrate not only grants the man a spent conviction, meaning he won’t have a criminal record, but she makes several comments during the course of her ruling which betray that she has a very poor grasp of the dynamics of domestic violence.
Firstly, she is quoted as describing the man’s decision to place the tracking device as “irrational and self-destructive”. This language minimises and (ironically) rationalises his behaviour as the evidence shows that domestic violence, whether it be stalking, harassing, intimidating, threatening, assaulting, murdering or otherwise abusing, is actually a deliberate pattern of tactics designed to control the victim and keep them in fear.
Secondly, she shares with us her view that “affairs like the one he and the woman have been having seldom end well.” If she means affairs where one person, usually the man, is using coercive and controlling violence against his female partner then yes, they seldom end well. If, however, she is making a value-judgement about the nature of the relationship (based on the fact that the woman is referred to as his “mistress”) then she again is rationalising his violence and also suggesting that the victim is somehow responsible for his behaviour because she was having an affair with a (presumably) married man.
Unfortunately these kinds of views are influencing the rulings of magistrates in domestic violence matters every day in local courts around Australia. In my work it is not uncommon for us to have clients who fear that they or their vehicles are being tracked by their ex-partner (or current partner), and it is very difficult for them to get the police and the courts to take them seriously. This kind of stalking is happening and it is easy these days for perpetrators to get hold of these kinds of devices.
Even in the unlikely event that the spent conviction is enough to deter this man from committing any further violence against this particular woman, what does this leniency mean for the next woman who comes along?