Suspended Mildura bail justice calls for more family violence support

Bernard Denner

Bernard Denner

A MILDURA bail justice who says he remanded a man without charge, fearing he would harm his family, wants more support to prevent domestic violence outside business hours.

The Department of Justice suspended Bernard Denner after he remanded the man on a Saturday in July last year.

Mr Denner remains frustrated because he is yet to be advised of the outcome of a formal investigation into his decision.

He said he had been called to Mildura police station, where a man refused to guarantee he would not harm his wife and children if he was released.

Mr Denner claimed police were unable to charge the man with any offences but he decided to remand him anyway because the man insisted he would not comply with a safety order not to return to the family home.

"This guy, if released, was likely in his state of mind to have gone directly back to his house where his partner and children were and, in my mind, would likely carried out his threats as told to both the sergeant and myself over a few hours," Mr Denner said.

"There was no reasoning with him at all. I could not leave the police station and wipe my hands and say 'this is not my problem' as I was very aware of his intent."

After a 30-minute hearing, Mr Denner believed he was able to remand the man without charge as he posed a risk to public or to himself.

The man remained in the police cells for the rest of the weekend but Mr Denner soon found himself in hot water after telling the department about his decision.

"I self-reported in an effort to find out what to do if it ever happened again," Mr Denner said.

"In the end, I believe I have stopped something happening. Who knows where it would have gone?"

Mr Denner said a hearing into his conduct was heard by a retired magistrate at Mildura in August last year.

However, Mr Denner remains in the dark about the investigation's findings some 10 months after his decision to remand the man.

A letter dated January 2018 from Attorney-General Martin Pakula to Member for Mildura Peter Crisp, who had made representations on Mr Denner's behalf, indicated the matter was in its "final stage" with an outcome expected "shortly".

Yesterday, a Department of Justice spokeswoman said: "As this matter is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Mr Denner said he had overseen about 385 cases as a bail justice but was unlikely to continue volunteering, even if the department's investigation clears him, because of the way his matter had been handled.

Bail justices convene out of session hearings when courts are closed to determine whether a person arrested at night, on a weekend or on a public holiday should be released on bail or held in custody until the courts re-open.

Mr Denner said Mildura had one of the highest rates of family violence in the state and called for bail justices and police to be given more support to handle similar situations outside normal business hours.

"If a magistrate had the same issue (during the day), he would have been able to get some help," he said.

"When there isn't a hospital available, where can you send them for some time out."

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