Domestic abuse courts: report

This report examines the effectiveness of Integrated Domestic Abuse Courts (IDACs) that use a ‘One Family, One Judge’ model.

Key Findings

  • There are a number of different court models using a 'One Family, One Judge' model.
  • The existing Integrated Domestic Abuse Courts vary in their complexity and remit. The levels of complexity generally relate to the types of civil matters addressed by the court (i.e. divorce, child protection, property) and whether or not the court has the capacity to hear contested criminal trials.
  • Following a literature review, three main categories of court were identified that use the 'One Family, One Judge' Model. These have been categorised as: the simple IDAC model; the complex IDAC model; and 'One Family One Judge' problem-solving courts.
  • There is no single model of IDACs and even within jurisdictions there are local differences between courts.
  • There are a number of similarities in the context in which IDACS have been introduced across jurisdictions, as follows:
    • New court models are often implemented by grassroots-level actors working within the justice system, usually members of the judiciary;
    • Interest and political will for IDACs depends on specific local contexts and circumstances;
    • Pre-established specialised domestic violence courts are common across jurisdictions that introduce IDACs.
  • There are also commonalities in the desired outcomes of IDACs, which are consistent across different courts. The desire to avoid the 'silo approach' of the civil and criminal processes was an overarching theme in literature on IDACs and, more generally, IDACs aim to address the challenges of the traditional court system.
  • There are a number of practical considerations for Scotland if IDACs were to be considered, including the costs of introducing and maintaining an IDAC, the increased costs of a collaborative court approach, and the cost of specialised IDAC staff.
  • There are also specific implications for the Scottish context with regard to the implementation of IDACs, related to: not guilty and not proven verdicts; legal prejudice, burdens of proof and rights of audience; and consent and information-sharing. This is a non-exhaustive list and further consultation and research is required to inform this section.
  • The evidence base on Integrated Domestic Abuse Courts is limited. Specifically, there is limited available evidence on integrated courts that deal only with child contact issues and domestic abuse and research that examines civil court outcomes.



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