Victims of domestic violence are increasingly having to travel further and further to attend court hearings. According to Ministry of Justice figures, not only have 18 of the Specialist Domestic Violence Courts [SDVCs] closed in the last 12 months, but a further four such courts are due to be shut in the next three years.
SDVCs are a relatively new invention – the specialist courts were created in 2005 by converting former magistrate’s court with the specific intention of making it easier for domestic violence victims to get to court – and to bring more perpetrators of domestic violence to justice.
The closure of SDVCs is part of an overall government programme for the closure of 142 courts throughout England and Wales. The Ministry of Justice has stated that whenever a court is closed, alternative arrangements have made and emphasises that 143 SDVCs remain open – however it is clear that these courts are becoming less local. For example, SDVC court users from Rugby now have to travel at least 19 miles to Nuneaton and Stratford upon Avon magistrates courts. Similarly the SDVC will no longer sit at Towcester – instead cases in Northamptonshire will be heard at Corby, Kettering and Northampton magistrates courts.
Whilst we all understand that in the current economic climate, the government has to make cutbacks – will these latest court closures affect the ability to bring justice to victims of domestic violence – only time will tell.
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