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Dame Vera calls for review of domestic violence courts

Dame Vera Baird
Dame Vera Baird

Specialist domestic violence courts should do more to stop defendants ‘gaming the system’, improve the courts’ understanding of coercive control and need independent domestic abuse advocates at every stage to help complainants and victims.

That’s the view of Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, who has been involved in a new report, Specialist Domestic Violence Courts – How special are they?

Volunteer court observers – mainly from the North of England Soroptimists and trained by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts Service – observed 223 cases between July and November 2017.

Following the results, Dame Vera believes more needs to be done to make these courts more effective.

She said: “Domestic abuse complainants deserve a justice system that understands their needs and our new report shows that there are gaps in funding and even in understanding of the issue which gave rise to these special courts in the first place.

“Victims expose themselves to enhanced risk when they report to police and agree to testify and full appreciation of that should feed into every step taken thereafter by the justice agencies.

“A wider review of how these long-established courts are working would be advantageous as we focus on preparing to legislate a new domestic violence bill.”

View the report at www.northumbria-pcc.gov.uk