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Home Office recognises Warwickshire's domestic abuse courts

A specialist court system in Warwickshire, which fast-tracks alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse and provides better support for victims, has received national accreditation from the government.

Specialist domestic abuse courts have been up and running in Warwickshire since October last year, operating at Nuneaton, Stratford and Rugby Magistrates Courts.

Warwickshire is one of more than 30 local justice areas across England and Wales to have its new court system recognised by the Home Office, it was announced this week. It brings the total number of specialist domestic abuse court systems in the UK to 98.

Amongst the pioneering features of Warwickshire's specialist domestic abuse courts are:

  • Magistrates and court staff specially trained in dealing with domestic abuse
  • Cases clustered on a particular day or fast-tracked through the system, limiting the likelihood of further incidents
  • Tailored support and advice from local voluntary agencies experienced in dealing with domestic abuse

Furthermore, it is anticipated that Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) - who will provide one point of contact both inside and outside the criminal justice system for the duration of a domestic abuse case and effectively 'walk' the victim through the process - will be introduced in Warwickshire in the next few months. There are also plans to extend the specialist courts' operating hours.

Mark Lynn, Chief Crown Prosecutor, CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) Warwickshire, said: "Since the inception of Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts in October, there has been a 50% increase in prosecutions for domestic abuse and over the last quarter a substantial increase in convictions.

"The Warwickshire Victim and Witness Information Partnership (VIP), a multi agency unit providing support to victims and witnesses, has been able to target support better to enable victims and witnesses to feel more confident about giving evidence."

Chief officers of the local Criminal Justice Board fully support specialist domestic abuse courts in Warwickshire.

Sue Ingram, Domestic Abuse Co-ordinator for Warwickshire County Council, which has been working closely with partners to establish the new courts, said: "The idea is to offer victims of domestic abuse better support through the court process and to fast-track alleged perpetrators.

"Warwickshire County Council is committed to protecting the community and making it a safer place to live, so we are delighted that the Home Office has recognised the new court system in Warwickshire. Research suggests many domestic abuse incidents go unreported and never reach the courts. We want to change that."

"Cases are being brought to trial much quicker, sending out a clear message that domestic abuse will not be tolerated."

Traditionally, domestic abuse cases were treated just like any other criminal cases so the victims and witnesses received no special treatment. The new courts offer them more support and protection, as well as bringing cases to trial more quickly.

Announcing Home Office recognition of the specialist court systems, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "Improving the support available to the courageous victims of these devastating crimes is crucial in encouraging people to come forward. 

"The success and expansion of the Specialist Domestic Violence Courts system will ensure that we continue to bring more perpetrators to justice and improve the support and safety of victims."

Chief Superintendent Neil Brunton, Deputy Director of Local Policing for Warwickshire Police said: "Warwickshire Police and our criminal justice partners are determined to support victims and witnesses through the court process and to encourage victims to report domestic abuse incidents earlier and to seek expert help as soon as possible from the range of support services available.

"Domestic abuse affects a wide cross-section of people in our community and this approach forms part of an overall strategy aimed at enforcement and prosecution of offenders, prevention and improving the support given to victims.

"Domestic abuse is not always about violence. Abuse can be psychological, sexual, financial or emotional too and it's important we identify these cases as well at the earliest opportunity.

"We are working with partners and local communities to target those responsible and provide the right environment for victims, their friends and families to report abuse, confident that the correct support will be given to them."

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