Domestic violence remains one of the most sensitive areas of Family and Criminal law and the fight against it is a pressure that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) continues to strive to improve to obtain justice for victims.
For the past 10 months the CPS in Merseyside/Cheshire has been running a pilot scheme designed to protect victims giving evidence in domestic violence cases. During this time, there have been 35 convictions secured in the area, which already has the best conviction rate for domestic violence cases. They have a specialist domestic violence team with expertise in dealing with more complex cases of domestic abuse.
The scheme involves vulnerable victims and witnesses being cross examined as soon as possible following the alleged offence with the interview being played as evidence later when needed. The aim of this is to not only assist in lessening the distress of the victim but it is also hoped that their recollection of details of the incident will still be fresh in their mind. Recollection of details of an incident can sometimes be forgotten or even blocked from the victim’s mind and may not be recalled when it came to a trial several months later.
The aim is that this will enable the CPS to build a strong case from the start in the hope that the defendant will plead guilty and the victim will not have to face a trial. This removes the possibility of he/she appearing in Court to be cross examined in a formal setting and in the presence of the perpetrator if a trial is required.
The scheme allows better focus to be placed on the needs of the victims as they try to cope and recover from the traumatic events and to gain the best possible evidence for presenting at Court.
This is obviously a positive approach for genuine victims of domestic violence, however there are negative aspects within the scheme. There is potential for an alleged victim to rehearse, choreograph or be even be prompted in what they are going to say in interview. The CPS will need to ensure all cases are investigated appropriately, handled sensitively and reach a result based on the unique details of each case.
Given the success of the scheme so far in the North West, we will hopefully be seeing even more justice for victims in the future should it be rolled out across the whole of the UK.