Advocate To Advise Abuse Victims

A Home Office scheme to help victims of domestic violence through the courts process has been launched in Wrexham. Up to 60 women at high risk of abuse are set to be counselled each year in the first such project in north Wales.

Legal teams will discuss their cases in the magistrates court for an hour each week to minimise delays. One woman who saw her case against an ex-partner delayed three times said: “I can see why so many other women give up the ghost and go back. I nearly did.”

The Wrexham project, similar to ones already operating in Swansea, Bridgend, Pembrokeshire and Gwent, provides an independent advocate to give one-to-one support to domestic violence victims and to ensure their safety is not at risk.

The advocate, Sandra Dykstra, is a qualified social worker who has specialised in family and children work. She said: “I would say 80% of social services care has some essence of domestic violence involved. I have a passion for dealing with and supporting people who are oppressed, and try to de-mystify what can often be a complicated court process to people.”
Domestic abuse accounts for almost a quarter of violent crime in Wrexham and North Wales Police dealt with almost 750 cased in 2005/6. A former domestic abuse victim, who did not want to be identified, welcomed the scheme. The Wrexham mother-of-two was put in intensive care by her then-partner.

She attended three hearings and was called to give evidence when he tried to justify his actions. She said: “I was luckier than some because I was strong about it. If it had been left for somebody not so strong, they would have just let it go and gone back to their partner. He admitted that he’d done it, but he said he ‘had reasons’ why he did it.

“I had to listen to what his mitigation was and was cross-examined and everything because he said that I ‘wasn’t doing what he was telling me to do.” She said any scheme which either cut delays in the trial process or explained what was happening, was to be welcomed.

The Home Office is running a press and radio campaign in Wrexham during April to highlight the project. The ‘Enough’ campaign urges friends of domestic violence victims to encourage them to report it to the authorities.

The Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline offers free, confidential, bilingual information and support to women, men and children experiencing and witnessing domestic abuse.