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Courts: Domestic Abuse

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 146995, tabled on 1 February 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many courts the Domestic Abuse Best Practice Framework was rolled out to in (a) 2019, (b) 2020 and (c) 2021; and when he plans to publish the results of the effect of that framework on those courts.

Answered on

9 February 2021

The Domestic Abuse Best Practice Framework was implemented across all magistrates’ courts in England and Wales in January 2019. Some regions went a step further and took the opportunity to corrall the Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts (SDAC) into one venue to enable them to provide a stronger, more efficient support service resource as opposed to hearing a small number of cases in nearby centres. All SDACs adopted the 5 core requirements within the Domestic Abuse Framework to ensure the optimum services were provided to all parties. Each region established joint boards to drive forward improvements locally and to review performance which was then monitored by a National DABPF board, where best practice was shared or provide support as and when required.

Domestic Abuse cases are given priority and are heard as soon as possible, but always before a trained bench and staff who are trained in this field.

The Domestic Abuse Best Practice Framework is now embedded in all magistrates’ courts.

The COVID19 pandemic has reduced our court room capacity, however domestic abuse courts remained a priority and were priority listings.

An audit was undertaken in Summer 2020 by the newly formed DABPF national board (membership from CPS, HMCTS, NPCC, MOJ, Home Office, the DA Commissioner, officials from the Office of the Senior Presiding Judge, Women’s Aid, Refuge, Savelives, and Witness Support) which identified that the regions continued to operate Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts, albeit some with remote third sector support due to the COVID pandemic. The reduction of court room capacity and the extra burdens that lockdowns and social distancing placed on courts in terms of service provision for the third sector reduced the ability for most of the Regions to make any meaningful progress towards further improvements. However, all regions have reflected that the relationships they had developed and the structures in place for multiagency new ways of working allowed then to continue to provide access to special domestic abuse services. The guidance and 5 key priorities that the framework provided gave all involved a firm basis to continue to effectively hear Domestic Abuse work despite the pandemic.

The newly formed National DABF board provides a robust governance structure to escalate issues to the National Oversight Group (chaired by the Home Secretary) or the National Criminal Justice Board and can identify and cascade best practice. To explore why referrals have been falling, and to drive up performance, a suite of work will be undertaken within the Framework governance with the NPCC leads, HMICFRS and the third sector.