Reporting to the police and court support explained
It is important to provide a survivor with ongoing emotional support throughout the process of reporting and going to court.
1, Call the Police
If the domestic abuse/coercive control is ongoing and a survivor is at immediate risk of harm call 999
If the domestic abuse/coercive control is ongoing and a survivor is currently safe call 101
2, Taking statements
Police will attend and take an initial statement from the survivor this might lead to arrest of the perpetrator or further information being sought.
The police will be making further contacts with the survivor. This contact will be facilitated by specially trained domestic abuse police staff (DALO, Domestic abuse liaison officers) or specially trained police officers.
It is likely that there will be several statements taken and information sought from the survivor over a time period.
The police will need to gather details of the incident or incidents from the survivor and investigate fully. They'll take a number of steps including:
- Interviewing the survivor- if it makes the survivor feel more comfortable the survivor can ask for a female or male officer
- detaining the perpetrator and taking them to a police station for an interview if a crime is established
- advising the survivor about what happens next – and what's happening with the perpetrator
- with permission, referring survivor to local advocacy groups East and Mid Lothian Women’s Aid, Edinburgh Women’s Aid, Fear Free for practical and emotional support
3, Charging the Perpetrator
Where there is enough evidence, the police will arrest the perpetrator
If the perpetrator has been arrested a decision will be made by the police to charge the perpetrator or not. This will be dependent on the level of evidence the Police have and if this enables them to charge the perpetrator.
If the police charge the perpetrator the Procurator Fiscal at the Sherriff Court will decide whether to release the perpetrator on bail or whether to keep the perpetrator on remand in prison.
If the perpetrator has been released on bail the perpetrator has to abide with the conditions of bail such as not approach the survivor etc. If a perpetrator breaches the bail conditions this constitutes a further crime and should be reported. Sometimes, as survivor will seek out the perpetrator themselves and need to be made aware that this also constitutes a breach of bail.
If it's likely the case will result in criminal charges, the survivor will also be introduced to a Victim Information and Advice (VIA) officer who will:
- keep the survivor updated on the progress of your case
- give the survivor information about the criminal justice system
- tell the survivor what steps have been taken to protect the survivor
- put the survivor in touch with support organisations who can help
- provide help to submit a Non-Harassment Order (NHO) to the Procurator Fiscal which would come into force if the accused is convicted and will add additional protection for the survivor for up to 3 years.
4, Going to Court
If the perpetrator is charged and the case goes to Court, the survivor will most likely be asked to give a witness statement in court. This can be frightening and difficult but there are some additional supports that can be had in order to make this easier for the survivor.
Most Women’s Aid services provide court support and will work with a survivor to prepare for court and to also accompany the survivor to court. They will also work closely with the VIA (Victim Advice and Information service) as well as the Procurator Fiscal to ensure that the experience is as positive as possible for the survivor.
Extra support at court
If a survivor is asked to give evidence at court the survivor will be entitled to use special measures like:
- giving evidence via a live TV link
- screens to stop the survivor having to see someone else involved with the case
- a supporter staying with survivor while the survivor give evidence
- get access to the Court house through a different entrance than the accused
- a private waiting area where the survivor can wait to give evidence without the need to see anyone else involved in the case
A court case can take significant time to be heard and many survivors finds the waiting for a case to be heard very difficult. It is essential to provide ongoing emotional support during this time.
Due to the waiting and the pressure of reporting and sometimes intimidation the survivor might seek to “drop the case” and not proceed. It is not the survivor who decides whether a case is dropped or not and a decision might be taken to continue with the case whether the survivor wants this to happen or not. If this is the case and the survivor is not wanting to progress the case and is called to give a witness statement in court the survivor will have to comply with this request. Refusing to give a statement can result in being charged with “contempt of court”.
5, After court
After a court case has been closed irrespective of the outcome there is a need to provide the survivor with further support and information.
Survivors often feel and think that once the perpetrator has been convicted, they will feel “better” and “vindicated”. In reality this is rarely the case and often a survivor can find it hard to move on after a conviction. They might feel that the sentence was to lenient or they might not feel any safer. It is important to work with the survivor to explore these feeling and support the survivor to move on.
If the perpetrator was not convicted the survivor might feel that they were not believed. They might feel that they have further angered the perpetrator and that the perpetrator now poses a bigger risk than before. They might feel unsafe and unable to do daily things.
At this stage it might be suitable to offer counselling services if the survivor wants to have this support. Some further emotional support is mostly needed.
In any outcome it is important to review the safety plan after a case has been to court. In cases where there has been no conviction there are no longer any bail conditions in place and the survivor might be at more risk. In cases where there was a conviction depending on the outcome the safety plan needs reviewed.