Paola’s story

A woman is misidentified as a perpetrator of family violence by the police.


The police attended Paola and Jerome’s apartment after neighbours contacted them about a loud altercation. When the police arrived at the scene they found broken furniture scattered across the apartment. Jerome explained that Paola had mental health issues and was breaking furniture. The police asked Paola if she was afraid of Jerome but she did not feel comfortable answering the question in front of her husband.

The police named Paola as the respondent to a family violence safety notice, removing her from the apartment where the couple lived. This separated her from her two young children.

Paola was not formally interviewed by the police and when she turned up to the Magistrates’ Court the next day to respond to the protection order the police had not organised an interpreter for Paola, whose main language is Spanish.


WLSV met Paola at the duty lawyer service as she responded to the police application. WLSV’s lawyer interviewed Paola using a phone interpreter. She disclosed a significant history of family violence and said the reason she smashed a chair was to defend herself after her husband Jerome had threatened to kill her with a knife.

Jerome did not come to court and continually sent Paola abusive text messages, including a video of their two young children crying. There was no interpreter in court, however WLSV felt it was necessary to proceed with the matter as an adjournment would have meant she could not return home and be reunited with her small children. WLSV’s duty lawyer made submissions to the Magistrate that Paola had been wrongly identified as the perpetrator in this matter, and that Jerome was in fact the primary aggressor. The Magistrate agreed with WLSV and did not make an interim intervention order, but instead adjourned the application for the police to reconsider their assessment of who was the primary aggressor.