Paper 102: Measuring what Matters in Specialist Domestic Violence Courts
Using data from seven specialist domestic violence courts (SDVCs) in England and Wales, it is argued that these relatively new institutions need to re-orient themselves away from typical criminal justice performance measures (such as arrests, prosecutions and convictions) and towards measuring what matters to the service users themselves (in this case, victims of domestic violence). Analysis of 438 cases revealed substantial variability in the case progression practices across the seven SDVCs. Sentencing outcomes also were significantly different by court location, despite hearing similar types of cases. Together with victim interview data, these findings suggest that traditional performance indicators cannot tell us much about the performance of SDVCs, in part because ‘success’ in a domestic violence case is difficult to define using criminal justice terms alone. An alternative approach involving the measurement of ‘quality prosecution’ and ‘quality sentencing’ is offered which could not only provide a more meaningful assessment of a court’s performance, but also could more accurately represent ‘what matters’ to victims of domestic violence.
Key words: domestic violence; victims; specialised domestic violence courts; criminal justice; performance measurement; performance indicators