Lancashire Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVC) Programme Victims and Witnesses Protocol

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1 Lancashire Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVC) Programme Victims and Witnesses Protocol 1. Introduction 1.1 This protocol is an addition to the existing Lancashire Domestic Violence Courts Protocol and builds on the excellent provisions already set out within the document. This protocol intends to strengthen the first objective of the Lancashire SDVC Programme of providing protection and support to victims and witnesses, and also to improve on the safety element of the national guidance on having justice with safety. This protocol is also designed to compliment the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, the Witness Charter and the "No Witness No Justice" Minimum Requirements. All Lancashire voluntary sector support agencies and Witness Care Units undertake to inform victims of their rights under the Code. 1.2 Lancashire has achieved a high level of multi agency working and coordinated community response to DV. It is acknowledged that there has been a vast improvement in how victims and witnesses are supported through the Criminal Justice System (CJS) but there is no doubt that there is room for improvement. This protocol intends to streamline procedures and ensure that victims have the best possible support. 1.3 Appreciation goes to the relevant Lancashire partner organisations for the hard work they have put into developing and agreeing this protocol, especially to Libby Reed who developed and negotiated the original draft. 2. Glossary CAADA Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse CJS Criminal Justice System CPS Crown Prosecution Service DV domestic violence DVI Domestic Violence Investigator specialist post in the PPUs IDVA Independent Domestic Violence Adviser these posts deal with high risk survivors (CAADA and some others use the term "advocate" but, for the purposes of the SDVC, the term "adviser" is used) ISVA Independent Sexual Violence Adviser MARAC Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference OIC Police officer in the case/in charge PPU - Public Protection Units, specialist Police units covering domestic violence, child abuse and high risk offenders Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 1 of 11

2 SDVC Specialist Domestic Violence Court Support services this is used to denote any of the services in the voluntary sector that are specialised in dealing with domestic violence. This term does include IDVAs and Victim Support staff/volunteers but does not include the Witness Service staff/volunteers who will be referred to separately WCU Witness Care Unit 3. General Principles 3.1 Woman/survivor/victim/witness these terms are used interchangeably throughout the document. When we refer to women this is used as shorthand, to reflect that the vast majority of domestic violence is perpetrated by men against their wives or female partners/ex-partners. When using this term, we are including an awareness of domestic violence for lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people, along with the impact on and inclusion of children. We ask people to understand this and hold onto these complexities whilst reading this document. 3.2 The safety and protection of any victims/witnesses is of the utmost priority. 3.3 All parties will bear in mind that there is no one universal victim, although many of women s experiences of domestic violence can be very similar, women and their abusers come from different backgrounds and have different circumstances to be taken into account. For example, the possible different issues, needs and networks of those who are disabled, those whose first language is not English and women from black and minority ethnic communities, especially with regard to their family structures. 3.4 This protocol acknowledges the importance of a holistic and needs led approach to support for women one size does not fit all and that all of the specialised DV services and posts are of equal value and significance in tackling domestic violence. 3.5 It is understood by all Lancashire agencies that specialised services may be delivering services to women or to women and men and that both approaches are valid. This is in line with the need for provision of women only services, the individual agency s constitution and the choice that local agencies can operate with regard to this issue. All agencies dealing with men as survivors will work to Respect s Male Victims Line advice and standards. 3.6 Agencies in Lancashire believe that victims/witnesses have a central role to play in the prosecution process and that this should not be overlooked by any agency. 3.7 Some of the cases that fail in relation to DV are due to victims/witnesses failing to attend at trial. This figure can be improved by early identification of reluctance or problems, for example, early application for special measures is vital to assist witnesses, to assist in the smooth running of the courts and for the best use of available resources. 3.8 Agencies should take care that full and accurate information is obtained from the victim in relation to the relevant circumstances of the case and the victim's views, and that this is provide to the prosecutor. Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 2 of 11

3 4. Risk Indicator Checklists 4.1 Lancashire recognises that risk assessment is specialist's remit and that the assessment of risk factors or indicators is a guide only in terms of risk and associated interventions. Agencies will also bear in mind that the checklist is no substitute for professional judgement or for keeping each other informed and talking to each other. 4.2 All domestic abuse incidents reported to Lancashire Constabulary will be attended by a police officer. At every incident officers will obtain risk identification information from the victim. A full assessment of risk factors will later be made by specialists in the Public Protection Unit. This information will be shared, dependent on the level of risk, with the relevant support services, in line with the information sharing protocol (refer to section 6 for further details). Where there are children in the household, a different information sharing protocol will be used. Lancashire Constabulary will disclose to CPS at the pre charge advice stage details of risks identified. 4.3 All agencies need to bear in mind that the assessment of risk factors may change during the course of the proceedings and that information regarding any changes should be passed on to the relevant agencies to assist in decision making as detailed above. 5. Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC) 5.1 Lancashire signs up to the operation of MARACs as recommended by the Co-ordinated Action against Domestic Abuse (CAADA). 5.2 MARACs focus on high risk victims as indicated through the use of the Lancashire risk indicator checklist. The role of the MARAC is to facilitate, monitor and evaluate effective information-sharing to enable appropriate actions to be taken to increase survivor safety. The responsibility to take appropriate action rests with individual agencies; it is not transferred to the MARAC. 5.3 Further, Lancashire will use the MARAC process to strike a balance between principles of empowerment of the survivor with local agencies managing the risk that the survivor faces. The process should, at all times, be respectful and non-judgemental towards women and their circumstances. 5.4 Lancashire Constabulary will inform the Specialist lawyer from CPS for the designated area the identities of any high risk victims/defendants who have been referred into the MARAC process and where there is an ongoing prosecution. 6. Referrals to support services 6.1 Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs) will all work to the nationally agreed definition. It is further understood that the concept of independence is not an issue for any services based in the voluntary sector, as these are independent by definition. Other issues should be decided on by the managing agency balancing their policy with CAADA guidelines. 6.2 High risk cases should be referred by the PPU to the IDVA or relevant outreach service in line with the existing information sharing protocol, within 48 hours. It is understood that any medium or low risk cases will need the Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 3 of 11

4 consent of the victim to be referred so may take longer than 48 hours to refer and that referral numbers will have to take into account the capacity of, and therefore agreed with, the relevant local support service. Where Victim Support, or any other agency, are facilitating these referrals, agreements should be made in each PPU area with the relevant specialised support service. All parties agree to act in line with this protocol and other relevant guidance. 6.3 Where pro-active contact is being made by a support service, women should be contacted in line with the Lancashire Guidelines to Pro-active Contact, refer to Appendix. 6.4 Once the support services are supporting the victim, they should ensure the relevant Witness Care Unit is informed of this. The only exception to this is if the support offered is confidential on the request of the woman. If the victim wishes the WCU to make contact through the support worker rather than directly, the victim must inform the WCU of this personally. Although it should be recognised that there are occasions when the WCU may need to make direct contact (for e.g. the witness needs assessment). This reduces the risk of the victim being contacted by several different people all asking the same questions. 6.5 It is recognised that home visits from agencies are up to the discretion of the service and the wishes of the woman. If there is doubt, they are generally discouraged, as they cannot guarantee survivor (and support service) safety. Further, support services should never be pressured to carry these out, as well as joint visits with any other agency, if they fear it will compromise client or worker safety or worker independence. 7. Retractions 7.1 Agencies should, as a rule, not contact victims for retractions, advice should only be given if the victim/witness approaches the agency themselves. 7.2 When a victim/witness indicates a retraction, they should be offered an appointment at a retraction clinic where available. Where one is not available an appointment should be made to speak to a Domestic Abuse Investigator. Times and dates of the various retraction clinics around the county should be made available so that the CPS, support services and other police officers are aware of them. 7.3 Where possible, arrangements should be made for the relevant local support service to attend the clinic, if this is not possible then they should try to be available by phone. The purpose of this is to give advice to the women before they make a retraction statement. 7.4 Retraction statements should be completed by Lancashire Constabulary accompanied with a short report highlighting any matters that may be relevant to the Prosecutor and which may assist in the decision as to whether to proceed or not. 7.5 Retraction statements should be of standardised format across the County. The following should be covered: View on veracity and general assessment of reasons given. Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 4 of 11

5 View on how the case should be dealt with, including proceeding against the victim's wishes. View on how the victim might react to being compelled. View on the victim and children's safety and what view the support agency has expressed. 8. Witness Care Units 8.1 Once a case is fixed for trial, the Witness Care Unit will inform the victim I line with the No Witness No Justice Requirements. A copy should be sent to the support service giving them details of which WCU officer is dealing with the matter and which case progression officer has conduct of it. It will then be up to the support service to act as liaison between the WCU and the victim keeping all parties informed of progress and identifying at an early stage any matters which may affect the trial or the trial date. 8.2 Prior to the court date the WCU should liaise with both the support service and the Witness Service at Court to ensure that the victim has confirmed attendance and that all necessary arrangements have been put in place e.g. transport, childcare, secure entrance etc. The victim should be offered a pretrial familiarisation visit to the courtroom as well as information on the layout of the courthouse. This should be set up by the WCU, the support service or the OIC and conducted by the Witness Service. Use of the "Going to Court" DVD will help, especially for victims from out of the area who cannot attend a pre-trial visit or for witnesses whose first language is not English. 9. Special Measures 9.1 The issue of special measures should be canvassed with the victim before seeking pre-charge advice. Police officers should tell the victim at the scene about special measures; give them a leaflet; get the victims views on special measures; complete the rear of the witness statement and complete form MG2 regarding requests for special measures. This will be followed up by all relevant Lancashire agencies after this stage in case of a change in status. 9.2 Lancashire agencies undertake to keep their staff informed and up to date about special measures and have relevant personnel trained up accordingly. Information for staff and victims should be available and/or on display. 10. Victim Personal Statements 10.1 Victims should be asked specifically if they would wish to make one by police officers at the same time as they are asked about special measures Police should use the present pro-forma scheme - another statement detailing their concerns, effects and issues. It can include information about the children and how they have been affected and can include whether they feel the perpetrator could benefit from professional help. The victim should also be told that the perpetrator will have access to the statement and its contents These should be placed on the Police file and then copied to CPS and kept on the CPS file. If the case goes to trial Police will type the VPS then send the original and typed copy to CPS. CPS should be aware if these are on the file and should read it out in court. It should be stressed in the court room that the Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 5 of 11

6 opinions of the victim or close relatives as to what the sentence should be are not relevant unlike the consequences of the offence on them Victims can make or add to a VPS at any stage prior to the case coming to trial, i.e. even if they decline initially they can change their mind. 11. Bail Conditions and Bail Variations 11.1 Prior to the hearing is the opportunity for the CPS to identify whether any previous convictions were in relation to the alleged victim in the case, or were of a domestic violence nature. Before the court starts, the prosecutor, if possible, should speak to any support service representative who has attended court on behalf of the victim and ascertain whether there is any further relevant information for a bail decision In magistrates courts, if a bail variation is sought, the prosecutor and court should ordinarily be given 48 hours notice in writing by the Defence Victims should be informed in timely fashion about bail conditions or variations. The Court should fax a copy of the bail sheet to the Police PNC Bureau and the local WCU as soon as possible and certainly before close of business on the day of appearance. The WCU can then inform the victim immediately and certainly within 24 hours of receiving the notification. 12. Pre-Sentence Reports (PSR) 12.1 The Lancashire Probation Trust staff will contact the relevant Public Protection Unit for information to inform the PSR. They will also contact the relevant Witness Care Unit to find out who is the named support service for the woman and attempt to contact them for information for the PSR. This should make them as accurate and as comprehensive as possible. 13. At court and in the courtroom 13.1 It is best practice for the DVI and the IDVA to be in attendance at the SDVC. If attendance is not possible then contact by telephone with the prosecutor prior to court starting should be made leaving a mobile telephone number. There may also be other support services in attendance on the day depending on the stage of the case, and if the victim/witness is no longer or not considered high risk The support services should inform the Legal Advisor and the Prosecutor that they are in attendance. They should identify to the Prosecutor if they are supporting any of the victims in the court list that day and any relevant information. The Magistrates should be made aware of the support service s attendance through the Legal Advisor by the Prosecutor, but never in open court as this can compromise the confidentiality of the relationship between the victim and her advocate Further, care should be taken to ensure that support services are not called upon to comment upon the case in open court thus compromising their clients and their own safety. If any comments are required during the hearing, Police officers in the court should be utilized or the case should be put back briefly so to enable the advocate to give information to the CPS. Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 6 of 11

7 13.4 The support services can also be used to clarify information from the victim/witness as and when requested by the court. Where possible, this information should already be passed on from the support service to the prosecutor but in cases where this has not been possible or new information comes to light on the day, telephone calls can be made to the aggrieved (for example, where compensation is requested for damaged to belongings and the defendant indicates that this has already been dealt with) The support services should sit wherever does not compromise their safety or independence. If the victim is in court and has support or is assisted by Witness Service volunteers, that person should be able to sit as close to the witness as possible to continue the support Services supporting the victim do not need to enter into conversation with the Defence Solicitors. Any discussions with how the matter should be taken forward can be made with the Prosecutor On the occasions that an aggrieved attends the SDVC, along with or without the defendant, a support service can be introduced to her (for e.g. in West London, the prosecutor asks for a moment with her in a private room in the court building with the sole purpose of introducing the support service to her). Subject to confirmation of her identity as the victim in the case, she can be advised by them accordingly. 14. Child Witnesses 14.1 Child witnesses should be treated in line with the code of Practice for Victims of Crime, CPS Policy and Home Office guidance on "Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on Interviewing Victims and Witnesses and Using Special Measures". Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 7 of 11

8 Appendix LANCASHIRE GUIDELINES TO PROACTIVE CONTACT Many women find it extremely difficult to approach a service and ask for help, although they may desperately want to. They're held back by all sorts of feelings and fears, and sometimes their partners prevent them from making contact. Proactive calling is where workers phone each woman in order to make personal contact. The main aims of proactive phone work are: MAIN AIMS OF PROACTIVE CONTACT To check she's received information about your organisation and the services provided or other relevant support services. To provide a detailed explanation about your role and the role of your organisation. To check if she has any immediate need for support. To offer her support at a much earlier point. To reach out and let her know that you care about her and what she's experiencing. To take responsibility for naming her experiences as domestic violence. To register the possibility of support even if she doesn't take up the opportunity then and there. NOTE -There are, of course, risks of calling a woman at her own home, which need to be carefully considered before you undertake proactive work. PROACTIVE CALLING - FIRST CONTACT PROCEDURE 1. Make sure your phone has a call- barring facility, if you are unsure dial 141 as a prefix to the number you are calling. 2. Be prepared to make the call. If you have access to it, read all relevant information contained in the woman's file or the referral to get an idea of her circumstances. Is she separated or living with her partner? Remember you need to respond differently depending on who answers the telephone. 3. If a man picks up you MUST NOT let him know who you are or the organisation you are calling from as this could increase the risk to the woman. You need to pretend you have dialled a wrong number. If necessary have a script prepared but try to sound as casual as possible. Ask for a 'fake' male name - not his or any of the children's names. 4. If you reach an answer machine, don't leave a message unless you are CERTAIN it is safe to do so. If in doubt don't leave a message. Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 8 of 11

9 5. If a child picks up, you can ask for mummy, but be prepared that the phone may be passed to the man. If this happens, DON'T PANIC - pretend you have a wrong number, and are a different woman. 6. If a woman picks up, don't assume it's the person you want to talk to. Ask for her by name. If it is not her say you'll call back - don't say where you are calling from unless you are CERTAIN it is safe to do so. Don't assume that because she's a woman it is safe to leave a message - it may not be. 7. If the person who picks up is the woman you want, tell her the following: your name where you are calling from ask her if it's safe and convenient to talk. If she says that it isn't, tell her you will call at another time and that she can contact you at anytime. If she panics and her partner is present you may have to talk her through putting the phone down safely. EXAMPLE -Say to her, "OK, just repeat what I am saying and then put the phone down: 'Sorry, you must have the wrong number there is no one here called Paul." Then put the phone down. 8. If it is safe to talk, ask whether she has already received any information about your service and understood this (or an information pack/letter). Let her know she can choose whether or not to accept the support you are offering. A woman may say clearly that she doesn't need this and doesn't want you to phone her again. It's important that you respect this. 9. If she doesn't want support, explain the services that are on offer and how she can access them. Let her know she can contact you at any time and you won't phone her again. 10. If she wants to talk straight away, go ahead. Often it can be difficult to reach a woman, and you may have to try again and again to make contact at different times of day and on different days of the week. It is vital therefore, to keep records of all attempts to make contact even if they are unsuccessful. By the end of the call, try to have covered the following: That she is aware it is her basic human and legal right to be safe. How to access a refuge if she needs one. How to get police assistance. That she is clear about what happens next - for instance, that she can call when she needs to or you will be calling her again, or that a date to meet has been booked. Find out the best time to contact her and whether it is safe to leave a message on the answer machine. She is aware she can call in when she needs to and is clear about when the office and phone is staffed, and is aware of out of hours support (e.g. National Domestic Violence Helpline). Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 9 of 11

10 When working with women there are certain messages you will want to give these women. Here are some of the messages: Domestic violence is totally unacceptable. Domestic violence is very common. Domestic violence is about power and control. Domestic violence is intentional and instrumental behaviour. The abuser is 100% responsible. It is not your fault. A man can change if he wants to. You cannot change him. You do not have to put up with it. You can increase your own safety. DO'S AND DON'TS OF PROACTIVE CALLING Do's Dont s Make regular attempts to contact her, at least weekly. Vary the time you call. Vary the day you call. Take into consideration school runs and her work commitments. Assume a woman will phone herself. Make assumptions about why you can't reach her. Take anyone else's word for it. Keep calling until you speak to her. All new workers should practice proactive calling before they try it for real. Adapted from and with thanks to Sunshine Brown Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 10 of 11

11 Signatories HM Courts Service, Lancashire Lancashire Constabulary Crown Prosecution Service, Lancashire Lancashire Probation Trust Victim Support Blackburn with Darwen and District Women's Aid Blackpool Advocacy Chorley & South Ribble Council for Voluntary Service (DACAS) Chorley Women's Refuge Clare House (South Ribble Women's Refuge) East Lancashire Women's Refuge Association Fylde Coast Women's Aid Humraaz Women's Refuge Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Domestic Violence Team Lancaster & District Women's Aid Pendle Domestic Violence Initiative Pendle Women's Refuge Preston Women's Refuge Star Centre (Rossendale) West Lancashire Women's Refuge Lancashire Domestic Violence Partnership Page 11 of 11

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