Following the success of four domestic abuse prosecution measures in three pilot areas, the targeted approach will now be adopted in domestic abuse courts across the country starting this month.
The measures – named the domestic abuse best practice framework – include:
- the option of giving evidence from behind a screen
- being allocated an independent Domestic Abuse Advisor
- Allowing victims to visit the court before the trial
- Providing separate courthouse entrances for victims and offenders where possible, as well as childcare facilities
The framework is the result of a joint project between the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). They identified the reasons why high-performing local criminal justice areas were achieving positive results in domestic abuse cases.
Following the implementation of these measures, one of the pilot sites – based at Highbury court, London – achieved a 7.9% increase in early guilty pleas and an 8.2% jump in overall conviction rates. Another site in the East Midlands also generated a 9.5% rise in the rate of convictions following the trial, and a third site in the Yorkshire area achieved a 4.1% fall in the number of victims dropping out of prosecutions.
Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Direct, Kate Brown, concluded:
“It’s always been the case that the guilty plea rate in domestic abuse cases is lower than in general crime because offenders hope that victims will not see the trial through. We want to see that reduced by taking away the stress of the experience for victims.”