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Changing Practices: The Specialised Domestic Violence Court Process

NCJ Number
Howard Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 44 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2005 Pages: 113-124
Susan Eley
Date Published
May 2005
12 pages
In analyzing procedures of the specialized domestic violence court in Toronto, Canada, this article notes some of the changing roles of the key stakeholders.
Specialized domestic violence courts -- as initially developed in America and replicated in jurisdictions of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada -- aim to apply concepts of therapeutic jurisprudence, which involve tailoring court processes and outcomes to achieve therapeutic goals for both accused and their victims. Among the features of domestic violence courts are judicial monitoring of the implementation of court dispositions, interdisciplinary collaboration, nontraditional practices in the courtroom, and remedial case outcomes. The domestic violence court in Toronto, known as K Court, vigorously prosecutes domestic violence cases. Its judges are assigned in rotation for 1 week each month for 3 months, so as to avoid linking a specific judge to the hearing of domestic violence cases. The stakeholders of K Court include the Crown attorney, the Victim/Witness Assistance program, Court Services, the police, Partner Assault Response programs, Cultural Interpreter Services, and probation and parole services. Using documentary data, direct observations, and interviews with key informants this study examined how K Court processes have contributed to change in the traditional practices of some of these stakeholders. The study identified three primary benefits of K Court's specialization in domestic violence cases. First, it has fostered improved decisionmaking by having experts provide input for decisions in complex cases. Second, it has reduced case backlogs in generalist courts by shifting a selected type of case to a court that is better able to address the case issues, thus reducing appeals. Third, the amount of judicial time required to process complex cases has been reduced due to the extensive involvement in adjudication of professionals trained and experienced in domestic violence issues. 35 references