Swindon Soroptimists Court Observations Project 2018
The Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Angus Macpherson, recently sent personal letters of thanks to 3 members of Swindon Soroptimist Club, after the completion of a 3 month project observing Domestic Abuse cases in Swindon and Chippenham courts.
The project followed one instigated by Dame Vera Baird QC in Northumbria, who, concerned at treatment of victims in rape trials, ran a similar period of court observations of Domestic Abuse cases. She was keen to get another area in England to do the same so that results could be compared.
As they were already known to him for their work on violence against women, Swindon Soroptimists were approached by Frank Mullane, CEO of AAFDA (Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse) who worked with Dame Vera, to ask if they would help on this task, which they were keen to do.
Aided by members of Cheltenham and Cirencester clubs they were given 2 days training on domestic abuse information and the court process by Swindon Women’s Aid and the Public Protection Unit.
Ten Soroptimists members then attended Swindon and Chippenham Courts every week for 3 months to fill out a PCC provided questionnaire on all Domestic Abuse cases. This analysed the details of the case, the type of abuse, whether the victim had been consulted if there were variations, if a Personal Statement was taken and how the needs of the victim were considered.
By the end of the 3 months there had been 18 visits to hearings and trials at Swindon and Chippenham Courts and as a result 115 reports were completed. These have been passed to the office of the Wiltshire PCC and will be closely analysed. This is still in progress at Bath Spa University, but the results will be shared with Northumbria PCC and also passed to the CPS and the Courts in order to improve victim and witness support and treatment in the courts.