Family courts in North Wales and Dorset are testing a pioneering approach to improve how they help domestic abuse victims.
Judges will be able to review information and request more documentation before a case reaches court, while all agencies involved will exchange information on a case. That may include domestic abuse professionals sharing risk assessments with the court to spare victims the trauma of having to repeat their experiences in a courtroom.
The new scheme will put more emphasis into investigating and addressing allegations of domestic abuse and other harmful behaviours rather than allowing confrontation take place in court, says the Westminster government.
“These pilots will help ensure victims of domestic abuse aren’t further traumatised by the court process and that better decisions are made about their and their children’s lives,” said justice minister Lord Wolfson.
“The pilot follows from a review of family courts which found that an adversarial process often worsened conflict between parents and could have a damaging impact on victims and their children.”
Head of the Domestic Abuse Safety Unit in North Wales, Rhian Lewis, commented: “Many of the families that we support have felt let down by the family courts system, stating that they felt that no one was listening to their experiences of domestic abuse and that perpetrators were able to continue to control and abuse them through this process. Survivors of domestic abuse have suffered enough.”
The pilot is a “real opportunity” to change the way families which experience domestic abuse are supported, she said.
The new system will initially be tested in Caernarfon, Mold, Prestatyn and Wrexham in North Wales, and Bournemouth and Weymouth in Dorset, for up to two years before a full evaluation.