Scottish Labour calls for expansion of domestic abuse courts
Claire Baker has called for all parties to back proposals to roll out domestic abuse courts across Scotland
Claire Baker - Image credit: Parliament TV
Scottish Labour is calling for an end to the ‘postcode lottery’ of access to domestic abuse courts in Scotland.
Currently there are only Glasgow and Edinburgh have specialist domestic abuse courts, with cluster courts in Dunfermline, Ayr, Livingston and Falkirk.
But Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson, Claire Baker, is calling for all parties to back proposals for domestic abuse courts across Scotland.
Baker has lodged amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is due to be debated at stage 2 today.
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The bill expands the definition of domestic abuse to include coercive and controlling behaviour.
Baker suggested specialist courts would “provide greater confidence” to victims of domestic abuse.
Commenting ahead of the vote, Baker said: “We must be clear, there is no place for domestic abuse in a modern and progressive Scotland.
“It is a scourge on our society and we must all work together to tackle it.
“The number of reported incidents of domestic abuse is rising and, as victims are all too often afraid to come forward, this may only be the tip of the iceberg.
“Across Scotland we currently face a postcode lottery when it comes to domestic abuse cases.
“We have seen a number of recent examples that indicate where your trial is heard makes a difference to the experience of the victim and the outcome of the trials.
“I believe domestic abuse courts would provide greater confidence in justice being delivered for victims of domestic abuse.
"We need to be sure that our courts and justice system is ready to appreciate the seriousness of the new offence of domestic abuse including coercive and controlling behaviour and I believe that specialists courts will ensure that expertise is available in every case.”
In a debate on stage one of the bill, Scottish Green justice spokesperson John Finnie indicated that he would also felt that domestic abuse courts were important.
He said: “I have long been an advocate of rolling out that approach.
“People need to have a clear understanding that it is about the timetabling of events rather than new buildings.
“It is about scheduling and people working together, which is surely what we want in relation to domestic abuse.”
In the same debate, Scottish Conservative justice spokesperson Liam Kerr mentioned trials in the US, Australia and New Zealand of a ‘one family, one judge’ system and of integrated domestic violence courts in England, where a single judge deals with all criminal and civil matters relating the case so that the victim only needs to recount their experience to one judge.
He said: “Arguably, by concentrating responsibility, that integrated court speeds decision making and eliminates the potential for conflicting judicial orders.
“The approach can also increase co-ordination among criminal justice and community-based social service agencies and may improve the ability to keep tabs on defendants and to respond quickly to allegations of non-compliance with imposed orders.
“It may reduce the number of court appearances, thereby streamlining the process and meaning that the trauma of retelling the incident numerous times can be avoided.”
He suggested that while there could be an “administrative burden” in running such a system, a ‘one family, one sheriff approach’ for domestic abuse victims in Scotland is “surely worth exploring”.
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