New Specialist Domestic Violence Courts for Bristol, Bath & North Somerset

New Specialist Domestic Violence Courts have been set up in Bristol, Bath and North Somerset Magistrates’ courts, following the success of SDVCs (Specialist Domestic Violence Courts) already established in Yate (North Avon Magistrates’ court), Bridgwater (Sedgemoor Magistrates’ court) and Yeovil (South Somerset Magistrates’ court).

Specialist Domestic Violence Courts are dedicated to making the victim feel as safe as possible. They operate on a set day in the week with one or more courtrooms dealing solely with domestic violence cases.

A police officer is present throughout the court proceedings and a specialist domestic violence advocate is assigned to provide support to victims from beginning to end. Victims can also enter the court through a separate entrance and have their own waiting area, away from their abuser and his/her family.

All staff (police officers, CPS prosecutors, HM court staff, Magistrates, Witness Care Officers, Probation Officers and Witness Service volunteers) involved in these courts have attended domestic abuse awareness sessions.

SDVCs have proved highly effective in increasing conviction rates for this abhorrent type of crime. The first SDVC in Avon and Somerset was set up at Sedgemoor Magistrates’ Court in Bridgwater in 2005 and it is continuing to make a difference. In the period from October to December 07, this court had a conviction rate of 83%.

To put this in context, the national domestic violence conviction rate for the same period averaged 68% and 74% for Avon & Somerset as a whole.

Commenting on the new courts, Michael Nicholls from CPS Avon & Somerset said:

‘The specialist domestic violence courts are a fundamental part of our effort to improve the support and care we provide for victims of domestic violence. We are committed to providing a first class prosecution service.

By providing specialist training for prosecutors and better support systems for victims we are seeing a tangible difference in performance. In the last three years we have seen how successful SDVCs can be and I am delighted that the whole of Avon & Somerset is now covered by them.

‘Perpetrators must be brought to justice, and when they are our specialist prosecutors and support services will be there to assist victims every step of the way.’