A special domestic abuse court has dealt with 168 cases in its first month of operation. It has been set up at Warrington Magistrates’ Court after a pledge by the Chief Constable of Cheshire to tackle a backlog of alleged domestic violence crimes.
The court began on April 4 after being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Any case where there is a charge for a domestic abuse offense will be heard and will remain there unless a trial is required. It helps to ensure consistency in how cases are prepared and dealt with.
A dedicated police officer with specialist knowledge and skills is based at the court to liaise with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police to ensure that there are no issues that could risk delaying the case, causing it to be re-listed or deferred to a later date.
In its first month of operation, a total of 168 cases have been listed and of these, 42 cases have been dealt with on the first appearance with 13 committed to crown court for trial, sentencing or plea hearing. A total of 54 cases have been adjourned for pleas, trial or pre-sentence reports and eight cases have resulted in offenders being remanded into custody.
In November an operation aimed at targeting domestic abuse perpetrators resulted in a total of 60 arrests across Cheshire. Operation Guardians took place over a period of 72-hours from Tuesday 23 to Thursday 25 November and was aimed at targeting those suspected of committing domestic abuse while boosting the support available to victims and families affected.
Assistant Chief Constable Una Jennings said: “There is no doubt that the court is playing a crucial part in driving home how important it is to deliver justice for victims of domestic violence.
“From early observations we are seeing a positive effect on the number of guilty pleas from offenders and it is great to see, so early on, the impact that this court is having by cutting down on waiting times for cases to reach court and securing justice for the victims and their families.
“I made a pledge to tackle priority areas such as domestic abuse and violence against women and girls and I know that this court is helping to reinforce my message that domestic abuse has no place here in Cheshire.
“However, I know that we are only scratching the surface of this problem in our county. It is our aim that more victims of domestic abuse can see how this court is leading the way in tackling this abuse and have the confidence in us to deliver justice swiftly for them and remove these dangerous offenders from our streets and their homes.”
Last month, Mark Roberts, the Chief Constable of Cheshire, told the Manchester Evening News: “When I came back (to Cheshire Constabulary last year) we had 22,000 open crimes, which is members of the public waiting for an update. It is 11,000 now. Outstanding suspects have gone from over 5000 to under 2000 now. Domestic Abuse has gone from over 1150 to 386 – that is people we need to prosecute or deal with or take no further action.
“I have had a big drive on taking positive action against domestic abuse – that does not always mean making an arrest. It may be that you get the victim safeguarded or the perpetrator in some kind of programme. We were arresting less than 20 per cent of domestics as of this month we are 60 per cent – positive action – we are the police, the police should lock bad people up.”
Anyone with concerns regarding domestic abuse can do so by calling 101, report it online via the Cheshire Police website. Victims of domestic abuse can alternatively get advise from the Open the Door website.