Domestic Violence is an ugly occurence.
The Police and Courts in this country are very hard on domestic violence. You don’t believe me, try getting bail to your home address (that you share with your partner) after a DV charge. Forget it. Rent a room 50 miles away and with a no contact condition, maybe you will have a chance, otherwise you are in prison on remand.
People think it is unfair. But I think that victims of domestic violence can count on the system to protect them. If that is what they want.
Now, you may be surprised, but the vast majority of people who contact me – a criminal defence solicitor – in relation to domestic violence cases are not the defendants but victims and almost always women. The call usually goes like this:
Please help. My Husband/boyfriend/partner is in prison. He came home drunk last week. We had an argument/scuffle/ He hit me (or I hit him) – I called the police as I wanted them to calm him down/take him to the station etc for a lesson or for him to sober up. But now they put him in prison. I want him back home, our children are missing their father. I told the police/Court/Prosecutor to let him go and that I want to withdraw my statement. They won’t talk to me. I want my husband/boyfriend/partner back!
For every action there is a reaction. The man in this case assaulted his parter and ended up in prison. What were you expecting? What if the police released him back to the home address and he does something really stupid. Who’s ass will be on the line? The criminal system is a process. If you are convicted of a DV offence and no restraining order is in place you can just return to your parter immediately after the Court hearing. You both can get on with your life if that is what you want to do. After the process.
But not before the end of the process. It is out of your hands. Try convincing the prosecutor to drop the case. Try convincing the police. If you tell them you made your original statement up and it was a lie – you can be charged with perverting the course of justice. This is a guaranteed Crown Court matter which attracts a prison sentence. Try telling the Judge in Court that you will not answer questions. You will be warned with a contempt charge. Try telling them you will not attend the trail. The Judge will issue a witness summons. Police will come to your door and take you to the Court by force.
Why does the guardian author assume that it is defendants who are gaming the system my intimidating partners to not attend trial? Most often the defendant is in prison with no way of contacting the complainant. See how long it takes you to get authorization to make an outside call. These are monitored and the prison will ring the line first to see if you are happy to take the call.
I say it is the complainants who are gaming the system by not seeing thorough their actions to the end of the process. It is the complainants who change their mind after they realise that their actions resulted in consequences that exceeded their expectations. It is the complainants who fail to attend for trials because there is simply no other way for them to ensure that the case against their partner is withdrawn. What they are doing is wrong. It is a massive frustration to the process of justice, it is also criminal. However, some people believe that there is no other way achieve the outcome they want.