Call for judges to receive extra training for domestic violence cases

A Southend councillor has called for judges and magistrates who deal with domestic violence cases to receive specialist training.

Cheryl Nevin, Labour councillor for Milton Ward, spoke out after it was revealed a victim of suspected domestic abuse and her children were left homeless after the perpetrator was bailed by police to the family home and refused to leave.

Speaking at a meeting of Southend people scrutiny committee on Wednesday, where the council’s new domestic violence strategy was discussed, Cllr Nevin said: “It’s really good to see this strategy coming forward and to hear some of the voices within the strategy document.

“It’s really sad there is that lack of joined up approach at the moment and also sad that there is a lack of understanding it seems from the courts. I wondered if it would be worth us ensuring that the judges are trained sufficiently.”

Figures show there were a total of 3,718 recorded domestic abuse investigations in Southend in the 12 months between January and December 2022.

Only 10 per cent of all cases with recorded outcomes in 2022 were solved, with only two per cent of all crimes with a recorded outcome in 2022 resulting in a charge or summons.

Referring to the strategy report, Ms Nevin added: “One case that is quoted says that somebody was bailed back to the family home and another case talks about it should be dealt with in a different court.

“It’s not helpful for people reaching out at a moment of crisis and quite often don’t have that spare time while they go through another set of procedures and policies. But it’s good to see that we are going to be working with employers.”

One contributor to the strategy report said: “The police took the financial abuse seriously enough to arrest my ex-husband, but the judge threw the case out because I was married and was told it was a matter for the divorce court to deal with.”

At the meeting, Owen Richards, from Healthwatch Southend, asked if trauma cards could be introduced into the action plan.

He said: “There was a piece of work done by Healthwatch Essex with trauma cards which are cards if you’ve been through domestic abuse or you are a veteran you can just slip that across the table to your GP to say ‘I’ve been through trauma, please take your time with me’.”

The strategy is aiming to work alongside Essex Police, the NHS and community groups in collaboration to ensure all victims can “access the right support at the right time”.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter