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Understanding Victim Retraction in Cases of Domestic Violence: Specialist Courts, Government Policy, and Victim‐Centred Justice

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Victim retraction is almost universally viewed by criminal justice officials as a problematic outcome in cases of domestic violence, consequently policy initiatives have been designed to increase support to victims in the hope that more will decide to continue with their cases instead of retracting their statements. However our understanding of the various causes and full consequences of retraction remains limited. Using data from five Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs) in England and Wales, we analysed a sample of 216 domestic violence cases to assess the relative influence of victim characteristics, offence characteristics, features of case processing, and evidence available from case files on the decision to retract. Despite the innovative courts, each embedded in strong multi‐agency partnerships, half of domestic violence victims still chose to retract. The policy implications of these results are discussed in the context of current British government initiatives designed to ‘Narrow the Justice Gap' and ‘Bring Offenders to Justice' while at the same attempting to locate the victim “at the heart of the criminal justice system.”

Keywords: Criminal Justice Policy; Domestic Violence; Specialist Courts; Victim Retraction; Victimization; Victims Rights

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2006-06-01

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