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Our Project ‘Specialist Domestic Violence Courts – How special are they?’ has won the Advocacy Award at the 2019 SIGBI Conference

A much-loved session of the annual SIGBI Conferences really does showcase the Best of the Best. There were six winners, each representing a different category and we won the Advocacy one. All winners gave a presentation of their winning Project, and received their Certificates from Programme Director Kay Richmond.
SI Newcastle-upon-Tyne for their survey “Specialist Domestic Violence Courts – how special are they?

How many women suffer unfair treatment in the Special Domestic Violence courts? We ask the question, ’How special are they?” How long can we continue to allow unfairness? Dame Vera Baird, along with the Soroptimist Clubs in Northern England instigated action to change this by observing procedures and behaviours in the law courts. This was undertaken by volunteer court observers, mainly from the North of England Soroptimists and trained by CPS and the Courts Service, observed 223 cases over a 5 month period. They found a significant number of gaps in the system but that if both funding and training were improved SDVCs would work as was originally intended
The findings included in 12 out of 21 not guilty pleas, defendants changed their plea to guilty on the trial date, as soon as the victim entered the court building. One judge commented about defendants ‘gaming the system.’
Specialist Domestic Violence Courts should do more to stop defendants ‘gaming the system’, improve the courts understanding of coercive control and provide Independent Domestic Abuse Advocates at every stage to help complainants and victims.
Action is being undertaken to transfer this knowledge and understanding of this issue in the endeavour to change the judicial system, educate, empower, enable women in our equality generation and work towards achieving Soroptimist Goals and the 2030 Agenda, “Leaving no one behind”.


Read the final report produced by SI Newcastle upon Tyne. OPCC_037_Specialist-domestic-violence-courts-Court-Observers-Panel-A4-booklet-2018-V2[209555]