Court hope for domestic violence victims

VICTIMS of domestic abuse are today being encouraged to press charges against their attackers after the county's first domestic violence court opened its doors.

VICTIMS of domestic abuse are today being encouraged to press charges against their attackers after the county's first domestic violence court opened its doors.

The first six cases of the Specialist Domestic Violence Court (SDVC) have been heard at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court - a month after the launch of the national domestic violence awareness 'Enough' campaign.

The Suffolk Criminal Justice Board applied to the Home Office to have a SDVC in Ipswich and permission was granted in September. There are 28 of the specialist courts across England and Wales.

The idea is to fast-track domestic violence cases through the judicial system while providing victims with a high level of support in the hope it will encourage more victims to give evidence against their abusers.

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The court will take place every Wednesday at the magistrates' court in Ipswich.

Every year there are around 4,000 domestic violence cases in Suffolk alone yet 46per cent of domestic violence victims in Ipswich end up withdrawing their claim.

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The aim is to reduce this figure to 10pc - in line with the achievement from the pilot areas.

Domestic violence and abuse service development manager for Suffolk, Marianne Fellowes, said: “The first day of the court went well.

“The courts have a very good reputation in Suffolk and what we saw was a reinforcement of that good practice with bail conditions being upheld and bail protection for witnesses.

“The message to those assaulted is you can come forward and you will supported.”

Several agencies including Suffolk police, the Crown Prosecution Service, Advocacy Service, Witness Care Units and Victim Support, have been involved in the launch of the court.

Ushers, magistrates, prosecutors and probation officers have been trained to recognise the issues around domestic violence.

Special measures have been introduced to enhance the service the court offers to victims, such as providing separate entrances, putting up screens and providing an independent advocator to speak to victims.

The first day of the court in Ipswich was on Wednesday .

Chair of the Suffolk Criminal Justice Board, John Budd said: “It is difficult to say at this stage just how many cases we are likely to see in Ipswich, but we expect to see a significant increase in the number of prosecutions as more people become aware of the court's presence.”

Those convicted could be sentenced to do the Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme, run by Suffolk Probation Service, which aims to get offenders to understand why they use violence and abuse against their partners and how it affects themselves and their partners and children.

Anyone in Suffolk suffering from domestic violence can call the local 24-hour helpline on 0800 783 5121.

N Do you think the new court will encourage victims to speak up? Have you been a victim too scared to give evidence? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

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