After nearly 5 years and over 4,000 hours of volunteering time the Report on the Special Domestic Abuse Courts has been completed. The report, with recommendations, covers the final tranche of court observations (earlier reports covered our work in Northumbria, Wiltshire, and the Midlands).
All observations were carried out at courts in England (although the same system operates in Wales). Scotland and Northern Ireland operate very differently but that does not detract from the importance of this report in its ability to possibly influence change across the board.
The launch of the report began with a high-profile slot at LBC on Monday 26 June. The item was then repeated on all the LBC presenters’ bulletins that day, culminating with Andrew Marr’s evening show, when he showed great interest in the report.
Clubs have received the report and it has now been sent to all Police and Crime Commissioners, all Chief Constables, Secretary of State for Justice, all Metro Mayors, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, the Magistrates Association, all Bench Chairs, various charities, and the Queen, given the interest she has expressed in the issues surrounding violence against women.
My thanks to everyone who contributed towards this report whether it be through observations, collation, proof-reading, providing excellent media contacts, and developing and implementing the media launch.
I would like to give special thanks to Dame Vera Baird, who initiated the project and helped refine the report, Jenny McLelland who provided the training for the observers, our student Jess Rose who crunched the initial numbers for the report, Liz Batten who wrote the press releases and provided contacts, and members of UKPAC’s Executive who burnt the midnight oil pulling together comprehensive lists of contacts. Due to this project, SIGBI now has detailed contact lists for use in its future advocacy work.
A significant tribute must be awarded to Vice Chair of UKPAC Chris Corless, who has led this project since before the Covid 19 pandemic. Without Chris’s tenacity and attention to detail, we would not be in the position of having the completed report available today.
As President, I am exceptionally proud of the report. This piece of work encapsulates the commitment of dedicated Soroptimists to deliver quality and impactful projects. It is also a demonstration of Clubs and Regions working together – reinforcing that ‘Together We Are Stronger’.
As the press releases state this is a demonstration of citizen action, and the report represents a rare example of members of the public taking responsibility for scrutinising a vital public agency which is intended to serve them. On Monday Charlotte, the reporter at LBC, asked ‘Why has it been necessary for volunteers to do this?’
Currently the report is out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram as well as Facebook and our website. Organisations that received the report are sharing it with their contacts – UKCSWA Chair Zarin Hainsworth has confirmed she has circulated it to her networks.
The Mayor of London’s office has replied that the report has been passed to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime as the Mayor exercises his role as Police and Crime Commissioner for the capital through MOPAC, which is the strategic oversight body tasked with devising the Police and Crime Plan and ensuring that it is delivered.
Cath Hannon (author of Midlands SDAC report) has just sent a timely update, as on Wednesday, members of the OPCC victims’ team (Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner) met with Maggie Blyth, Deputy Chief Constable who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG). Maggie is developing the national action plan and has taken copies of the report to consider the recommendations.
Below is a comment received from a former family law barrister, via Messenger on SIGBI’s Facebook page:
‘I’ve just come across the report that you shared on Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts – How Special Are They? Before seeing this, I didn’t know what Soroptimists were, and have now explored the website and online materials. I am really impressed with the report, and the spotlight you have shone on the issue of support for survivors of domestic abuse.
I say this not only as a former family law barrister who worked with many women who experienced such abuse, but also in my current role as Fundraiser for the Kent based charity Oasis Domestic Abuse Service. Knowing many of the IDFVAs that the charity employs across East Kent, Medway and North Kent – in the community, in hospitals and in our refuges – I know first hand how well they support the women and children who need our services. I only wish (speaking as a former barrister) that more women could access their support during the court process. So well done to your organisation, and I hope that the report is considered by decision-makers and judges at the highest levels’.
It’s now vitally important to formulate the next steps and ensure that the report’s recommendations are followed through. At the SIGBI Conference in London on 4 November, there will be a panel presentation and discussion with Louisa Rolfe, Metropolitan Assistant Commissioner and Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner, who will share their vision on how working together we can end violence against women.