Revolutionary domestic violence court roll out across Northern Ireland stalled by assembly stalemate
PLANS to roll out across Northern Ireland a successful pilot court in Derry for domestic violence cases has stalled due to the lack of an assembly, a senior judge has revealed.
Judge Barney McElholm has been overseeing the pilot which sees domestic violence cases all heard by a single judge on a particular day of the month in a specialist listing.
`Enhanced arrangements' ensure access to important support services and a system to ensure victims and alleged perpetrators do not see each other before hearings as is currently the case in other courts.
However, four years after its launch, it is still confined to Derry, despite the increased support offered to victims in the pilot proving to encourage them to remain in the notoriously difficult process.
Judge McElholm was discussing the success of the courts yesterday at the Justice Institute which is being held in Belfast this week.
He told those assembled they must "take nothing for granted about victims, listen to them and learn", as he explained how the Foyle model has put victims at the centre of the process.
The discussion looked at the damage domestic violence does to the wider community.
It heard how the north west is leading the way with Perpetrator Programmes for those "who have faced up to what they have done and taken responsibility" being piloted in Derry, where "buy-in is high".
Judge McElholm said offering humanity to others "can change them and their behaviours if they are willing".
He also spoke again of his frustration at being restricted in the sentences he is able to hand out for domestic violence cases - a quarter of those for criminal damage - because there is no justice minister to address it.