A DEDICATED domestic abuse court is to be piloted at Livingston Sheriff Court from Thursday.
The new multi-agency pilot will improve the service domestic abuse victims in West Lothian receive from the criminal justice system.
The pilot reflects the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling the issue of domestic abuse, and learns from the innovative and successful approach adopted in Glasgow. The concept and design of the court is a result of close multi agency co-operation and co-ordination.
The court brings together a number of agencies who currently work with those affected by domestic abuse: the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Lothian and Borders Police, Scottish Court Service, Victim Support Scotland’s Witness Service and West Lothian Council’s Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Team (DASAT).
The pilot seeks to commence trials within 8 to 10 weeks of an accused’s first appearance in court. This swift response will be coupled with the offer of support to victims by a DASAT worker who will provide the link between the victim and the criminal court process. All the cases will be dealt with in court by designated prosecutors and sheriffs to build expertise, consistency and quality of response.
Graeme Jessop, Interim District Procurator Fiscal at Livingston, said: “We all recognise domestic abuse as having a significant impact on victims, their families and our society. We know that many instances of domestic abuse are not reported to the police but also recognise the difficulties victims encounter in having the strength to come to court often after years of abuse.
“This pilot allows the prosecution and our victim and information service (VIA) to continue to show its strong response to this type of crime and to build better a better service to victims through strong multi-agency specialist working.”
Detective Inspector Matt Paden of Lothian and Borders Police Public Protection Unit, who has been tasked with developing the police response at scenes of crime, and the invaluable work by the Domestic Abuse Liaison Officers, said:
“Our priorities in responding to domestic abuse are to protect the lives of both adults and children who are at risk as a result of crimes of this nature.
“We robustly investigate all reports of domestic abuse and identify repeat victims for crime prevention and risk aversion action.
“Within West Lothian we already work closely with partner agencies to provide support and information to victims of domestic abuse and refer them to Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Team when appropriate.
“This multi-agency approach is geared towards preventing and reducing domestic abuse. The introduction of the first Domestic Abuse Court in West Lothian will undoubtedly enhance this process.”
Susan Lawson, from DASAT, said: “We welcome the introduction of the dedicated Domestic Abuse Court at Livingston.
“In our experience, womens’ perceptions of the criminal justice system, rightly or wrongly, are that domestic abuse is not always taken seriously and this is often a factor in decisions to withdraw complaints.
“The introduction of the Domestic Abuse Court quite clearly demonstrates to victims and perpetrators that domestic abuse is indeed considered serious.
“As a result, this may lead to an increase in the number of victims coming forward and consequently an increase in the number of convictions.
“This should inevitably lead to victims in our community getting the justice they so rightly deserve for this henious crime.
“The Domestic and Sexual Assault Team are delighted to be part of this multi agency approach to support victims of domestic abuse.”