For many victims of domestic abuse, giving evidence in court can be every bit as traumatic as the abuse itself. Many are scared and feel vulnerable to reprisals if they give evidence against their abuser. Evidence based prosecutions, where the victim is not required to appear in court, offer protection to those being abused whilst giving them justice.
Therefore, early attention to framing an evidence led prosecution by police and CPS is absolutely essential.
I applaud the inspectors for investigating the use of evidence-led prosecutions in domestic abuse cases where the complainant won’t or can’t testify. These used to be called victimless prosecutions, but of course they are not victimless incidents. Quite the reverse, some victims refuse to testify because of the fear in which they are kept by their perpetrator. Our criminal justice system must make sure justice is available for this needy group
Although awareness and commitment to tacking domestic abuse is clear across both police and CPS, the inspectors find an important need for police to appreciate from the outset that domestic abuse victims may not feel able to support a prosecution. It should be routine to consider how to evidence an evidence led prosecution from first contact.
Half of the trials seen by the inspectors that did not proceed were because the victim did not attend court; yet in many of these cases, it would have been appropriate to consider proceeding on an evidence led basis
Importantly there must be monitoring of cases which are treated as viable without the victim and how many that actually proceed to trial without her. What is not counted cannot be identified and systematised and systematic use of those cases is urgent