Sunday, April 20, 2008

Domestic Violence Again

We were down to hear a trial listed for 11 am last week, and it was expected to take the rest of the day. The charge was Common Assault, the defendant a husband, and the victim his wife. This was the first listing for trial and a couple of pre-trial reviews had taken place. All the witnesses were present, and then, ominously, we were asked for ten minutes while the prosecutor spoke to her witnesses. The ten minutes turned into thirty, and at that point the prosecutor owned up. The only witness of any real value was the victim, and she had been saying for some weeks that she didn't want to go through with it. She had made a withdrawal statement eight weeks ago, so the CPS, as is their policy, issued her with a Witness Summons. Well, you can lead a horse to water, as the old saying goes, but this lady flatly refused to give evidence despite the encouragement of the Victim Support people who do such a splendid job for us, and despite the pleas of the prosecutor and the Officer In The Case. The Crown bowed to the inevitable and offered no evidence, so I told the defendant that the case was dismissed. We gave him his costs out of central funds (i.e.your money and mine) and off he went.
There are so many issues here, in what is a very common scenario. We couldn't possibly punish the victim for refusing to give evidence, as that would make her a victim twice over. The public are stuck with the bill, because the defendant was acquitted. The CPS are pushing these cases as far as they can go, being well aware of the pressures that can be put upon victims, whose relationships are complex, but the failure rate remains high. Special Domestic Violence Courts are springing up all over the place, and they seem to be offering the best possible witness support, but in the final analysis, if the battered wife sees a trial as not being worth the trouble, that's it - all over.
Here's the official viewpoint.

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