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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 March 2008, 18:16 GMT
Domestic abuse convictions 'rise'
domestic abuse victim
Dedicated domestic abuse courts support victims at every stage
Dedicated courts that prosecute domestic violence cases in England and Wales have an average success rate of almost 70%, figures show.

Home Office statistics released to mark International Women's Day show that the 23 courts, first set up in 2004, have dramatically improved conviction rates.

The courts offer a range of supports, including separate entrances, exits and waiting areas for victims.

The courts are also to be backed by an extra 1m for victim support schemes.

Victim support

Announcing funding, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said in a statement: "Improving the support available to the courageous victims of these devastating crimes is crucial in encouraging people to come forward."

The courts use specially-trained police, prosecutors, court staff and probation officers to offer victims help as the case makes its way through the justice system.

Cases are fast-tracked through the courts to minimise stress.

Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said these measures help to convince victims that reporting the violence to police will help them escape their abusers.

"Their success shows that where victims of domestic violence have confidence in the criminal justice system to report these crimes, the system will help them," Ms Prentice said.

Ms Smith also said that the 20 existing Sexual Assault Referral Centres - where victims can receive medical care and counselling and undergo a forensic examination - can also apply for 15,000 in extra funding.

Their success shows that where victims of domestic violence have confidence in the criminal justice system to report these crimes, the system will help them
Justice Minister Bridget Prentice

Sir Ken Macdonald, director of public prosecutions, said the specialist courts led to a 23% improvement in prosecution rates since they were created.

"This is a dramatic improvement when compared with only 46% of cases being prosecuted successfully in December 2003."

The statistics, which cover the period from October 2006 to March 2007, show that 10 courts had conviction rates of more than 70%, one court's rate was more than 80% and the other 12 courts averaged 66%.

The government has also vowed to implement a provision in the 2004 Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act that forces police, councils and other local agencies to review each domestic homicide case.

The reviews are meant to learn from mistakes and prevent future deaths.



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