There are a variety of methods by which victims and witnesses of domestic abuse can be supported throughout the criminal justice process. The information below provides a summary of these methods and some useful links.
Standards for Victims and Witnesses
Code of Practice for Victims — Statutory code that sets out the minimum level of service that victims should receive from the criminal justice system.
Witness Charter — Sets out the basic standards of service that you can expect from the criminal justice system in England and Wales as a witness of crime.
In Somerset – The Lighthouse Victim and Witness Care Team, based at Bridgwater Police Station support victims and witnesses of domestic abuse and help fulfil the expectations set out in the Victims Code and Witness Charter.
A victim of domestic abuse may often be asked to act as a witness in criminal proceedings. Together with the Lighthouse Team, victims of domestic abuse are likely to be offered support of the Somerset Integrated Domestic Abuse Service.
A specialist domestic abuse court will normally enable victims and witnesses to be offered the use of “special measures” in court, to help reduce the stress of the hearing.
Specialist Domestic Violence Courts
In Somerset, there are two specialist domestic violence courts (Yeovil and Taunton). These have staff and magistrates trained in domestic abuse, to help ensure that victims and witnesses receive the best possible support. Normally, domestic abuse cases are heard on the same day, so that the trained staff are available.
The Crown Prosecution Service normally ensure their prosecutors are trained in understanding the dynamics of domestic abuse, when prosecuting in SDVC cases.
If someone has evidence that they or their children have been victims of domestic abuse, they maybe able to get legal aid if they can’t afford to pay legal costs.
Evidence can be provided from several sources:
- Social Services
- Health Professional
- Refuge Manager,
- Domestic Abuse Service
- Education or Training Provider
- Benefits Provider
The Legal Aid Agency has sample letters for both victims and professionals to use.