Tears, abuse, remorse: Inside Sydney’s domestic violence court | SMH

It has been a long day in Blacktown’s Court 2, where a magistrate trained in trauma and experienced in domestic violence matters hears one of the state’s new family violence court lists.

It has also been a bleak and fraught day, as the court sorts through a litany of cases that show domestic violence is complex and comes in many different forms.

NSW established the Specialist Family Violence list at two city and a handful of regional courthouses in September last year. Local Courts are struggling with the volume of domestic violence-related matters – they constitute about 40 per cent of the workload – so the list aims to deal with cases more quickly, and in a more respectful and trauma-informed way, by people who have particular expertise.

There is intense interest in how this trial is operating, as discussions are under way at the highest levels of government about how the court system should approach domestic and family violence, and whether that should involve a standalone domestic violence court or an expansion of the family violence pilot.

The lawyers and court staff who deal with these specialist lists are required to make the experience as victim-friendly as possible – to avoid legal jargon, explain in simple terms what’s happening and give complainants a voice.

They must also give witnesses regular breaks, avoid dismissive language and ensure everyone involved understands the next step.

The magistrates have special training in trauma, and the volume of DV cases they deal with gives them a better understanding than most about common tactics, such as the abuser taking out an ADVO against their victim to muddy the waters about who is abusing whom. Prosecutors also have special training, both from the Department of Communities and Justice and from police.

Liz Snell, the law reform and policy co-ordinator for Women’s Legal Service NSW, says the pilot is welcome, and needs to include specially trained staff who prioritise victim-survivor safety.

“The specialist list is in its early days and we look forward to an evaluation of the impact it has had,” she says.


Source: 12ft

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