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Glasgow Sheriff Court struggles with backlog of 1,300 domestic abuse cases

Glasgow Sheriff Court is struggling to handle the number of domestic abuse cases going through the court, with those involved waiting four and a half months for their cases to be heard.

In order to relieve some of the strain on the court senior prosecutors will hold additional “daily trial courts” in October in an attempt to stop this ever mounting backlog of cases.

The Scottish Court Service has said that there has in fact been a reduction the wait time – from 22 weeks to 19. However, victim’s advocates have made clear that this is still not an acceptable amount of time to wait. Graeme Pearson MSP, Labour’s justice spokesman said cases are moving at a “snail’s pace” but chiefs of the court have defended the current system saying;

“We have introduced an additional domestic abuse trial court every Friday to the existing court programme in Glasgow. And during October there will also be an additional daily trial court to tackle business volumes. The latest figure for the time between domestic abuse cases calling and trial in Glasgow is currently 19 weeks, down from 22 weeks in January. For an adjourned trial the figure is 10 weeks.”

It is a startling statistic that a quarter of summary cases coming through the court are in relation to domestic abuse. Specialist domestic abuse courts were established in 2004 as a pilot project to deal with the level of domestic abuse being reported and the project was highly praised in a 2007 Scottish Government report.

However, reports of domestic violence have increased under the newly established Police Scotland. Domestic abuse has increased from representing from 39 per cent of all crimes more than half, at 54 per cent. This has meant an increasingly burdensome caseload for the courts.

The Scottish Court Service spokeswoman said:

“While the long-term trend in crime is down, there have been significant increases in domestic abuse and sexual offence cases, which ­reflect more proactive approaches by police and prosecutors as well as ­increased confidence among victims in reporting these crimes. The Scottish Court Service is committed to reducing waiting time for domestic abuse cases and are continuing to work with colleagues across the criminal justice system to achieve this.”

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