New court supports victims of domestic violence

Hackney Council is working with Tower Hamlets Council to co-ordinate a Specialist Domestic Violence Court (SDVC) so that victims of domestic violence in the borough are offered better support and offenders are brought to justice with more speed and efficiency.

The specialist court – based at Thames Magistrates’ Court - will be operational from 22 October, and convene every Thursday. Two court rooms will operate, one dedicated to trials and the other focussing on trials in the morning and other matters, such as bail applications in the afternoons.

The court is supported by Hackney Council, Tower Hamlets Council, Police, prosecutors, court staff, the probation service and specialist support services for victims. The partners aim to identify, fast-track and risk assess domestic violence cases and support victims.

Between April 2008 and March 2009, The Crown Prosecution Service in Hackney dealt with 306 domestic violence prosecutions. 193 resulted in convictions with a 63.1 per cent conviction rate.

Cllr Alan Laing, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods said: “Domestic violence is often a hidden crime, which is under-reported and difficult to bring to justice. This specialist court is an important new facility, which aims to give those who have experienced domestic violence, confidence and support at every step of the court process. We are working together to send out a clear message that domestic violence will not be tolerated.”

•The courts will be run by magistrates or district judges trained in domestic violence and will be supported by specially trained court staff.
•Victims and witnesses will benefit from independent domestic violence advisors, who will offer free emotional and practical support.
•The Witness service will offer a pre-court visit, enabling victims and witnesses to familiarise themselves with the court before trial day
•Specialist safety and support measures will be available, including separate waiting rooms and entrances; subsidised or free transport to and from court.

A range of new safety and support measures will help victims and witnesses of domestic violence coming to court, such as separate entrances and waiting rooms.

To contact Hackney Council’s Domestic Violence Team call: 0800 056 090. National Domestic Violence Helpline Number: 0808 2000247.

Notes to editors

* Alongside Hackney Council and Tower Council’s Community Safety Services, key partners are:
HM Court Services (Thames Magistrates Court)
Tower Hamlets Police
Hackney Police
Probation Service
Crown Prosecution Service (Tower Hamlets and Hackney)
Tower Hamlets Victim Support
Hackney NIA Project
Thames Magistrates Witness Service

* The Specialist Domestic Violence Court model is an evaluated approach that is supported by the Home Office and Ministry of Justice.

* There are already Specialist Domestic Violence Courts operating in the London boroughs of Croydon, Hillingdon and Newham, Brent, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham.