In 2017 Dame Vera Baird KC, then the Police and Crime Commissioner for the area, initiated a unique partnership between SIGBI and criminal justice partners in Northumbria. She engaged local Soroptimists in an observation project in which they watched over 220 sessions of the Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (now Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts), answering a range of questions in particular about how the largely female victims were treated. The results uncovered serious failings and shortcomings in these courts. These were then analysed to produce a report in 2018 asking: “Specialist Domestic Violence Courts: How Special Are They?”.
That work provided the foundation to replicate the same initiative in Wiltshire in 2018 and in the Midlands in 2020 and throughout many other areas of England in 2022.
The collective reports together show something very close to a comprehensive report on the way in which the Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts are working on a national basis. The recommendations made in the new report seek to improve the workings of this system with a particular emphasis on positive experiences and outcomes for the victims.
The aim of this project is to provide a useful independent review across England of how these courts should be improved for victims of abuse, the majority of whom are women. Soroptimists stand up as advocates for all women, especially for those who have no voice. We have worked as independent observers to give the public confidence in our courts, but we also want to drive improvement and our recommendations seek to help build public trust in our justice system.
A full copy of the 2022 report is available:
Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts – How special were they in 2022 (PDF)