Early intervention in Custody and Domestic Abuse Criminal Justice Liaison
By Samantha Midgley, Criminal Justice Liaison Worker
In the aftermath of a domestic abuse incident, custody offers a golden window of opportunity to offer help and support to both victims and perpetrators.
I spend most of my working days in the Prisoner Handling Team at Middlesbrough Custody Suite. They have major role in processing people who have been arrested, and perhaps surprisingly, they handle around 70% of people arrested due to a domestic abuse related incident.
When a perpetrator is arrested and detained in custody, this is a golden window to engage with victims of domestic abuse; while they’re relatively safe, they have some space and time to think about what they want to do next.
I support that team by engaging with victims, and ensuring that safeguarding is put in place for victims whilst the perpetrator is in custody. This gives victims an opportunity to take back some control, and to think about the options that are available to them.
The type of things I support a victim with includes talking about their support needs, for instance: accessing support services, refuge, target hardening, non-molestation orders, restraining orders and asking for special measures to give their evidence if they decide to support a prosecution.
I link in regularly with local support services and solicitors to support them in victim safeguarding too.
On a few occasions, I have facilitated the serving of non-molestation orders on perpetrators of abuse whilst they are in custody. This enables conditions to be put in place for a length of time to restrict a perpetrator from contacting a victim, and a breach of it is a criminal offence.
Justice for a victim is not always criminal justice; sometimes they just want support to ensure that the perpetrator leaves them alone in future. Sometimes, they are willing to support a prosecution, and to give evidence, although many feel daunted by this prospect.
Research shows that many victims find the prospect of going to court and being openly scrutinised too overwhelming.
If they also feel unsupported, and the court room feels like a hostile environment, where they are likely to have to walk past the perpetrator on the way in, sit near them in the waiting area, have to endure the perpetrator’s friends and family staring or sniggering at them, and then have to go face to face with the perpetrator in the court room, while their behaviour, conduct and history is dismantled by professional.
For victims who have already suffered trauma, serious physical assaults, and an enduring pattern of control, coercion and psychological abuse, this can be too much for them to handle and they withdraw from the process.
My role ensures that no matter what the outcome is; prosecution or no prosecution; victims of domestic abuse are fully informed of the options available to them to get the Justice they need, to move forward and live a life free from abuse.
There are various support services available to victims of domestic abuse that can offer on-going support and advice, whether they want to remain in a relationship, are separated or wanting to leave safely.
Harbour (Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool) – 03000202525 (24hrs)
My Sisters Place (Middlesbrough) – 01642 241864
Eva (Redcar) – 01642 490677
Foundation (Redcar) - 03004562214
These support services can help people to get additional security measures on their home, access refuge, get legal advice, support for children and most importantly, provide a confidential space for people to get support and advice.
Nobody should have to go through Domestic Abuse alone and I urge anyone who is experiencing Domestic Abuse to pick up the phone.
Whether this is to report to Police, or to speak to a support service, there will be somebody at the end of the line ready to listen.
If it is an emergency or someone is at risk of harm, always dial 999 and speak to the Police.
Posted on Saturday 8th December 2018