Call for fast-track domestic violence courts

Barrister Rebecca Coen claims legal delays make victims drop out of justice process

Many victims of domestic violence choose family rather than criminal courts, as they are not entitled to anonymity during the criminal prosecution process. File image: Reuters

Many victims of domestic violence choose family rather than criminal courts, as they are not entitled to anonymity during the criminal prosecution process. File image: Reuters

 

Consideration should be given to establishing “fast-track” criminal courts to handle domestic violence cases, a Director of Public Prosecutions official has said.

Barrister Rebecca Coen said many victims of domestic violence prefer to rely on the family courts instead of making a criminal complaint. The reasons for this include the slowness of the criminal justice system and the fact that, unlike in the family courts, victims are not entitled to anonymity during the criminal prosecution process.

She said many victims will drop out of the process while a criminal case is still before the courts. This usually means the offender goes free.

“There are arguably advantages for having discreet domestic violence courts and that might be worthy of consideration by the relevant authorities in Ireland, ” Ms Coen told an event hosted by the National Observatory on Violence against Women and the National Women’s Council.

However, she added that consideration would have to be given to the impact of fast-track courts on an accused’s right to a jury trial, which would require time to prepare for.

Emma Murphy, a domestic violence activist and public speaker whose ex-partner recently avoided jail for assaulting her in 2015, welcomed the proposal.

“You read about these cases which are lasting for years,” she said.

“For a victim, the thoughts of even getting through the next few weeks, never mind the next few years, can be too much. This is absolutely needed in this country to speed it up.”