Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.




Comments are usually moderated. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment. If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NEED NOT BE DOMESTIC OR VIOLENT

"Domestic abuse" is not a crime; assault is. We have been promised a dedicated law on DV but that hasn`t happened yet.  Not really surprising since the Ministry doesn`t keep magistrates` courts conviction statistics of assault occasioning DV despite all the paper work. And Freedom of Information request did not help....
 

  

Justice Statistics Analytical Services
Ministry of Justice
London

Email:







           
 2015




Freedom of Information Request



Dear



Thank you for your email of xxxxxxxx 2015, in which you asked for the following information from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ):



Please inform me of the numbers of those charged with assault under the domestic violence protocols at magistrates courts in England and Wales and acquitted at trial  for last five years for which figures are available.  Please also supply numbers of acquittals as above as percentage of those charged.  If possible also supply the reasons for acquittals eg cracked or ineffective trials, vacated trials


Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).



I am afraid that I am not able to confirm whether the Ministry of Justice holds the information you have requested. On this occasion, the cost of determining whether we hold the information would exceed the limit set by the Freedom of Information Act and, as a result, I am afraid will not be taking your request further. In this letter I explain why that is the case and I also provide you with some advice as to how you could refine your request so that we may be able to answer it. 



The law allows us to decline to answer requests under FOIA when we estimate that it would cost us more than £600 (equivalent to 3½ working days’ worth of work, calculated at £25 per hour) to confirm whether the department holds the information requested.



It may help if I explain that the MoJ Court Proceedings Database holds information on defendants proceeded against, found guilty and sentenced for criminal offences in England and Wales. This database holds information on offences provided by the statutes under which proceedings are brought but not all the specific circumstances of each case. It is not possible to separately identify from centrally held data the relationship between victim and defendant; hence it is not possible to separately identify which offences proceeded against at magistrates’ courts involving assault   between adults constituted a domestic violence offence. This detailed information is not reported to Justice Statistics Analytical Services due to their size and complexity.



In this instance, to determine if all of the information requested is held, we would be required to contact all the courts in England and Wales and ask them to search individual case files for all offences involving assault between adults to establish the relationship between the victim and defendant, in order to determine whether the offence constituted a domestic violence offence. To assess whether we collect and can collate the information you require, on the scale that you have requested, would therefore exceed the ‘appropriate limit’ set out in section 12(2) of the FOIA. 



You can find out more about Section 12(2) by reading the extract from the Act and some guidance points we consider when applying this exemption, attached at the end of this letter.



You can also find more information by reading the full text of the Act, available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/36/section/12 and further guidance http://www.justice.gov.uk/information-access-rights/foi-guidance-for-practitioners/exemptions-guidance



Whilst you could narrow the scope of your request in order to try and bring it within the cost limit, for example by requesting information for a particular magistrates’ court, I would like to take this opportunity to advise you that it is very likely that any information that may be held which would determine whether an offence constituted domestic abuse may be exempt from disclosure under the FOIA under the terms of Section 32 (Court Records). Therefore it is likely that any subsequent narrowed request asking for domestic violence conviction rates or statistics could be refused under Section 32.



I am sorry that on this occasion I have not been able to answer your request. You have the right to appeal our decision if you think it is incorrect. Details can be found in the ‘How to Appeal’ section attached at the end of this letter.



Disclosure Log


You can also view information that the Ministry of Justice has disclosed in response to previous Freedom of Information requests. Responses are anonymised and published on our on-line disclosure log which can be found on the MoJ website:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/information-access-rights/foi-requests/latest-moj-disclosure-log


The published information is categorised by subject area and in alphabetical order.



Yours sincerely





Giovanni Barbuti

Justice Statistics Analytical Services

Ministry of Justice



But it seems that has not stopped the law makers from introducing more categories of DV enforceable from today.  Better stop telling the wife to do the washing up.

I`m off now for a real Hogmanay.  Best wishes to all for a don`t drink  or use a mobile phone when driving new year.

2 comments:

  1. And yet, some years ago, they decided to set up some courts dealing solely with DV. I wonder how they justified that and how successful they were?

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    Replies
    1. A little time ago a panel of magistrates was set up here on Merseyside who would deal with all the DV cases. The number of cases is such that some cases overspill the dedicated courts so these cases are then dealt with by other courts in addition to their usual business. I really have no idea how successful these courts have been and in any event it all depends on what your definition of successful is. I believe the real success is not so much influenced by the court but by the support agencies who help & support those who have suffered DV. The Domestic Violence Protection Order does seem to proving effective now that the police are actually making more use of it. In the early days we saw very applications for DVPOs but now they figure regularly.
      As ever, the law can be a blunt instrument and I hope we are looking more into the causes and how to educate both the perpetrator and those at risk.

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