Domestic abuse courts: report

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

The cost of IDACs

This section examines evidence on the costs associated with IDACs.

There is a very weak evidence base on the costs of IDACs

There is very little evaluation of the costs of IDACs within the literature and only one evaluation study adopts a cost-benefit analysis framework.[49] Some of the literature explores the logic that fewer appearances at court entail a reduced cost to the individual,[50] but there is no identified evaluation of service users' experience that focuses on cost.

A collaborative court approach may entail an increased cost.

While IDACs may have benefits in terms of information-sharing and victim safety, there is the potential for significant additional costs involved in increased staff time and output. In New York and Toronto, criminal solicitors observed the civil court and civil solicitors attended the criminal process.[51] Similarly, in the Toronto IDVC the crown prosecutors sat in on family cases.[52] In the evaluation of the Croydon IDVC, it was identified that, while the 'one family one judge model' was maintained, the number of legal practitioners present per case was increased, as many criminal lawyers could not represent in civil cases and vice versa.[53] Additionally, staff attendance at the ten multi-agency meetings per year for the Croydon IDVC, were estimated to cost £5450.20 between 2006 and 2007.[54]

The IDVCs in Vermont provide an interesting case study in evaluating the cost of collaboration. The first IDVC project in Bennington County was not funded. The second IDVC in Windham County was funded by a governmental VAW grant of $250,000. The leader of the court project, Judge Suntag, provided that the unfunded project was more successful, partly because it was unfunded. Suntag's collaborative approach involved securing relevant actors' participation by convincing them of the efficiency of the IDVC framing their role as "work they would be doing anyway".[55] This promoted community participation and buy-in. Suntag was surprised by the positive response from actors, particularly community agencies who engaged particularly well. Comparing the two funding experiences, Suntag stated "If I did it again, I'd do without a grant".[56]

Provision of legal aid may affect the cost of IDACs

There are also implications for legal aid as a result of victim- and offender- representation within the IDAC. In Ontario and Vermont both the pursuer and defender in the civil hearing and the accused in the criminal case are offered legal counsel.[57] A family lawyer, interviewed on their experience in the Toronto IDVC, stated that because multiple lawyers were involved in one case, more time was spent in court, which was an inefficient use of counsel time and thus had implications for legal aid.[58]

Funding for IDACs

Mazur and Aldrich[59] argue that IDACs have the opportunity of attracting non-state funding, i.e. charity and grant funding and/or public-private partnerships, due to the cross-jurisdictional work of IDACs (community building; women's rights work etc.). In addition, statutory funding is not only limited to justice departments. The evaluation of the Vermont Court, for example, was joint-funded by the Vermont Department of Health, Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs and by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.[60]

Staff costs of IDACs

The role of the domestic abuse court coordinator would be an additional cost. The coordinator is a fulltime position that requires a significant level of legal knowledge and administrative experience. The advocate in the Caerphilly SDVC was a role with similar duties to that of the IDVC coordinator, the cost of this role was £40,000 annually in 2004-5.[61] In Vermont, the coordinator was paid somewhere between $20,000 - 30,000.[62]



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