High court help request for Northamptonshire victims of domestic violence

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A six-month backlog in Northamptonshire’s court service means that domestic violence victims are not getting justice, it has been claimed.

A meeting of the Northamptonshire Crime Panel yesterday heard how one victim had to wait two-and-a-half years for her case to come to court.

File picture: PCC Adam Simmonds

File picture: PCC Adam Simmonds

They were also told how victims are reluctant to appear as witnesses after such a long time has passed.

Police Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds said he had already held talks with the county’s most senior judge, Judge Rupert Mayo and was due to visit the high court next week to appeal for their help.

But with two courts in the county - Corby Magistrates and Kettering magistrates - due to close soon, the situation may not improve quickly.

At yesterday’s meeting, Corby Councillor Mary Butcher said: “I know of one very determined lady in Corby who has waited for two-and-a-half years to get her abuser to court.

“I know she is looking forward to finding out his sentence next week but it has not been easy.”

Commissioner Adam Simmonds said: “I met with Judge Mayo and we talked about the six month backlog in crown court.

“In Leicestershire and Rutland it is two weeks for a case to get to court but it takes six months here. There’s something wrong.

“We’re going to go to the high court to see how we can improve things.

“It may be that the court system asks for help with a figure of money.

“I’m going to do what I can to make some difference to people who are waiting.

“I know it’s a depressing situation.”

He also said that his force had tried to help plug funding gaps for vital services that had run out of money in order to help victims of domestic violence. Mr Simmonds added that better use was being made of Domestic Violence Protection Orders. These are relatively new powers that were introduced to enable the police to put in place protection for the victim in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident. Under DVPOs, the perpetrator can be prevented from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim a level of breathing space to consider their options, with the help of a support agency.

Head of Safeguarding Superintendent Steve Lingley said that, in his 30 years as a police officer the way in which domestic violence was treated had completely changed, but acknowledged there was still work to do. He said: “We have managed to go from getting two DVPOs per month, to getting about 15 per month.

“We have only had three that the magistrates have not been able to grant. In 20 months we’ve had 14 breaches.

“It’s encouraging. It shows we’re targeting the right people, enforcing the DVPOs and keeping the victims safe.

“It’s been a monumental journey but we still have a long way to go.

The meeting was also told that the force makes use of its powers to take abusers to court even when the victims do not want to continue with the case, when officers feel it is in the best interests of the victim and will protect them from future harm.

Supt Lingley also added that the force had seen significant increases in the number of men coming forward to report domestic abuse.

If you are a female victim of domestic abuse in Northamptonshire, you can access help from Northants Women’s Aid or if you are a male victim, there is help on offer from the Men’s Advice Line