"ONE-STOP courts to help victims of domestic violence win legal redress are to be established across the country to encourage battered women to come forward and identify their abusers.
Victims who have given evidence against violent husbands will be allowed to start divorce and child-custody proceedings straight after giving evidence to a judge.
According to some estimates, police are called to an alleged abuse incident every minute, and women are usually the victims. Two women a week on average are killed by a current or former husband or boyfriend.
The move, backed by Vera Baird, the solicitor-general, follows concern that many victims are put off legal redress because they have to go to the criminal and civil courts several times.
Some women have had to go to court as many as 14 times after calling the police to the scene of abuse. Ministers fear that with two courts operating, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”.
The one-stop courts would include specialist judges who could impose prison sentences, injunctions and restraining orders as well as start divorce and child-custody proceedings. The courts would offer specialist help for victims, including advocates to speak on their behalf."
"Baird has been impressed by a pilot project in Croydon, south London, where battered victims can go before judges in one place."
Anyone experienced this new system in Croydon?
Early Evaluation : Nov 2008 - after 12 months of pilot. www.justice.gov.uk/publications/evaluati...ed-court-croydon.htm
IDVC : Integrated Domestic Violence Court
"Aims of the IDVC
The IDVC aims to:
Ensure that all cases are dealt with justly.
Ensure that the safety of survivors of domestic violence/abuse and their children are considered and addressed at every stage by the court.
Hold perpetrators of domestic violence/abuse accountable to the court for their actions and to monitor their compliance with court orders.
Provide an efficient and expeditious response to criminal and family domestic violence proceedings.
Increase the amount and quality of information available to the court to enable effective decision-making by the court at all stages.
Demonstrate that domestic violence is taken seriously by the court.
Increase the confidence in and use of the courts by those experiencing domestic violence.
Achieve this as part of a co-ordinated partnership response.
Share information about the workings and impact of the pilot court at a national level. (DCA, 2006)"
Only five cases proceeded through the court during the first year, while expectations had been of perhaps 75 cases during the 18-month fieldwork period. Given the small number of
cases proceeding through the IDVC, it was not possible to assess effectively whether the
aims of the court had been fulfilled. On the basis of this early evaluation of the court the
findings are as follows:
The reason for the small number of cases proceeding through the IDVC was unclear. The quantitative evidence suggests that there may not be as many cases with overlapping criminal and civil proceedings as had been assumed. However it may also be that the criteria for the court are too restrictive, or there may be problems in identification of cases.
For some respondents, the lack of cases for the court clearly demonstrated that there was no need of it. However, most of those interviewed who were most closely involved remained passionately committed to it.
While some legal professionals had concerns regarding the potential for heightened tension where hearings involved both criminal and family proceedings, court staff were observed in the small number of cases proceeding through the court to be vigilant, prepared and effective in handling of potentially
threatening situations. Special measures were granted when applied for in criminal cases.
Witness Support provided information and support to victims relating to the criminal proceedings in two cases.
The central role originally envisaged for advocates, supporting victims in the IDVC, did not transpire in practice and lay advocates provided support in only one of the five cases. Lack of funding was given as the main reason by the Advocacy Service for their limited engagement with the IDVC.
While the hearing of both criminal and family matters by the same judge has the potential for bias, in practice issues of bias did not arise among the small number of cases handled. Thus this issue did not come to be legally tested.
Compliance with court orders was monitored via review hearings in two of the five cases, although it was unclear whether parties understood that they were merely ‘invited’ to attend as there is no firm legal basis for such hearings.
The process evaluation identified some blurring of partnership working and management of the IDVC, which, combined with the limited input possible from a court-based co-ordinator, appeared to result in the lack of clear leadership for the court.
The initial findings lead to the following recommendations:
It needs to be established once and for all whether there are actually sufficient overlapping cases to justify continuing with the court. This would involve tracking of cases through the magistrates’, county and Family Proceedings courts, ideally in a number of locations to obtain a national picture, something that was beyond the remit of the current evaluation. Inspired by the work of the courts in America it is difficult to believe there are not cases which should receive the same treatment and there may be cases for the court not finding their way there.
The requirement relating to the hearing of criminal cases needs to be understood properly, not as meaning that any civil application has to be delayed, but that if a judge has made findings of fact in relation to a civil matter (which is likely to be rare in practice) a second judge would need to take over for the criminal matter.
There needs to be an advocacy service working in partnership with the court, providing an in-court presence. Ideally this should be included in the Family Justice Centre (FJC)1 service. A relationship similar to those between the SDVCs in Cardiff - with the Women’s Safety Unit (see Robinson, 2007) and West London
- with ‘Standing Together’ (see Jacobs, 2007), may be considered, where these organisations work together with their local courts in partnership to help victims. However, this will involve proper funding and the rebuilding of relationships between the courts and the FJC.
It would be helpful for lay advocates and magistrates’ court personnel to meet so that the courts may receive feedback in the form of victims’ views, and lay advocates can understand the underlying purposes of the courts’ sentencing policies. Availability of systematic data from the FJC in relation to their work with victims would be useful in this respect.
FJC is a name which represents the umbrella body of organisations co-located in the centre. It is not a specific agency or department.
The role of co-ordinator and the linked issue of identification of cases require more resources. This has been found in all jurisdictions (see Plotnikoff, 2005, p. 62).
The issue as to whether or not the magistrates handle IDVC cases must be tested. This is a difficult issue and the potential resistance of practitioners should not be under-estimated.
There needs to be a tighter hold on management – also a recommendation of the 2005 evaluation. The Management Group has lost momentum and needs to reengage. The establishment of a smaller task force to focus on the question of numbers of cases, which could report back to the wider group might be useful. Organisations working with and reporting on parties potentially going through the IDVC should be included in the management partnership, including the Probation Service and Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS).
The use of review hearings in the IDVC should be tested further, with consideration of placing hearings on a proper statutory basis so that perpetrators can be ordered rather than simply invited to attend. The ‘victim’s voice’ should be considered for inclusion in review hearings."
why can they not just make it easier for victims of DV to divorce the perpetrators? My x just wants to make life harder for me so refuses to even give me his address let alone sign any papers - so I'm stuck married to a monster because of the law and processes we must go through to get a divorce - a legal system which was supposed to help me out of the situation and protect me from him!