Dedicated Domestic Abuse Court returns to Cheshire in boost to Constabulary's commitment to victims
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A specialist court dedicated solely to dealing with cases of domestic abuse has returned in a boost to Cheshire Constabulary’s commitment to protecting victims and swiftly securing justice.
The Domestic Abuse Court, previously based at Chester Magistrates’ Court, was temporarily put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic but this week has resumed at Warrington Magistrates’ Court.
Within this court, any case where there is a charge for a domestic abuse offence will be heard and will remain there unless a trial is required. This helps to ensure consistency in how cases are prepared and dealt with.
And in a first for Cheshire, a dedicated police officer with specialist knowledge and skills will now also be based at the court, liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police to ensure that there are no issues that could risk delaying the case, causing it to be re-listed or deferred to a later date.
There has been an increase in the number of Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPN) being issued with a total of 70 in this year alone compared to 32 issued in January to March 2021.
A DVPN is an emergency non-molestation and eviction notice that protects victims so that police and courts can put in place protective measures in the immediate aftermath of domestic violence where there is insufficient evidence to charge.
Assistant Chief Constable Una Jennings said: “We understand how important it is to deliver justice against perpetrators of domestic abuse as quickly as possible for victims.
“Delays in cases reaching court can increase anxiety for victims and, in some cases, lead victims to retract their statements. Any delays in securing justice also erodes faith in the system and this is something the force is striving to rectify.
“Since joining Cheshire, I have been keen to drive home our unwavering commitment in tackling key areas of focus such as Violence and Intimidation against Women and Girls (VIAWG) and domestic abuse.
“The reintroduction of the dedicated Domestic Abuse Court is just one of the ways in which we are pledging our steadfast support for victims.”
At the end of November, the Constabulary took proactive action against domestic abuse perpetrators as part of Operation Guardians which saw 30 people arrested in 24 hours – this figure reached 60 arrests during the 72-hour focus.
Other initiatives include the GoodSAM Instant Help platform which will allows anyone who calls 999 to live stream from their phone to a call operator in the Force Control Centre – a first for police forces in the North West.
ACC Una Jennings added: “I want to be clear that domestic abuse is not normal, it is not OK and it is certainly not acceptable.
“Regardless of age, gender or race, we know that domestic abuse can affect anyone, it is happening right now, behind closed doors, in public places – we can do all we can to address this issue but the fact is, we will never truly know the extent of domestic abuse in Cheshire unless we are informed.
“There is no place for domestic abuse in Cheshire and I promise that we will not stop in our continued efforts in removing perpetrators and making a stand for victims.
“I am confident that by working with the courts and CPS, the reintroduction of the Domestic Abuse Court will provide credence that Cheshire Constabulary is here for victims and will ensure that more people will come forward knowing that justice will be served quickly and effectively.”