Domestic violence victims could give court evidence from separate buildings

The Bolton News: Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd

VICTIMS of domestic violence could give evidence for court cases in a separate building in the future, a court chief has said.

The comments were made at a forum held by Greater Manchester’s police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd.

The forum in Manchester sought to improve how the criminal justice system tackles domestic abuse.

Senior police officers were there, along with representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service, The Magistrates’ Assoc-iation and Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service.Norman Draper, from the court and tribunal service, said efforts are currently made to separate victims from defendants, even if it means the victim entering court through a fire exit.

He added: “We can provide some separation but, if the victim is giving evidence within the court room, we know they are close. That’s why we have screens and videos that are shown via video link.”

When asked whether it was possible to have complainants giving evidence in different building from the court in the future, he said: “We need to get the boxes wired up consistently.

“It’s perfectly possible. We would welcome this because we could get people going to video suites anywhere in Greater Manchester to give evidence.”

Officers at the meeting said body cameras were becoming more important in prosecuting people responsible for domestic violence.

Chief Supt Vanessa Jardine said when victims did not wish to push for a prosecution, the recently introduced body cameras can “give impactive evidence” of abuse.

Chief Supt Jardine said the introduction of Clare’s Law — where a partner’s possible violent record can be revealed by the police — has potentially been “life-saving”.

She added: “On 44 occasions, we have been able to give information which they might not have previously had to help people make informed decisions. If, out of that number, one has made a significant difference to somebody, then that’s been a success. It’s not too strong to say this can save lives.”

Clare’s Law was introduced in Greater Manchester, Wiltshire, Nottingham and Gwent in September, 2012, following the death of Clare Wood.

Ms Wood was murdered by George Appleton, her ex-partner, in February, 2009. She was unaware of his criminal past.

The scheme is now being drafted out throughout England and Wales.

Mr Lloyd said: “This issue really does matter. Eighty-eight women being killed last year as a result of domestic violence is a national scandal. It is something that concerns us all. It could be members of your family or my family.”

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