Specialist courts extended for domestic violence victims

The government has announced a new wave of specialist domestic violence courts to support victims of domestic abuse.

The 30 new Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVC) brings the total number of dedicated domestic violence courts across England and Wales to 98.

Ministers argue the courts are more effective at procuring a prosecution and offer more support to victims.

Police, prosecutors, court staff, probation service and specialist support services work together to identify, track and risk assess cases of domestic violence.

Because the courts cater specially for domestic violence and are structured accordingly, they report significantly higher success rates than mainstream courts.

In a review of the first 23 SDVCs, published last month, it was found ten had a conviction rate of more than 70 per cent and the remaining courts were achieving 66 per cent.

Magistrates in SDVCs are specially trained in dealing with domestic violence and support is also available from independent domestic violence advisers.

The courts are modified to support victims, with separate entrances, exits and waiting areas and fast-tracking of cases.

Attorney general Baroness Scotland said specialist courts were now a fundamental part of the government’s services to support domestic violence victims.

She added that specialist training has lead to a tangible difference in performance.

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.

“We have made good progress on domestic violence over the last ten years but we know there is more to do and I want to reassure women everywhere that keeping them safe from harm is a top government priority.”