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Court support to start for domestic abuse victims

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By Christie Breen
Dumfries and West
Court support to start for domestic abuse victims

VICTIMS of domestic abuse in the region will soon be able to access support to help them get through criminal court proceedings.

The new Assist service is launching locally next week, starting initially at Stranraer Sheriff Court but thereafter rolling out to cover all of Dumfries and Galloway.

Co-located with Police Scotland in Dumfries Police Office, the Assist team will provide advocacy and support for men, women and children who have suffered or witnessed physical, sexual and emotional abuse, which can include coercive control.

Assist was pioneered in Glasgow in 2004 and is run by Glasgow City Council. It currently operates in several local authority areas in the West of Scotland and receives over 4000 referrals a year. The new service was set up in Dumfries and Galloway following a funding boost from the Scottish Government.

Trained staff support victims where a current or ex-partner has been charged, or is likely to be charged, with a domestic abuse related crime.

Victims create a safety plan, pass their views to Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), can access protective measures and links to recovery agencies and be guided through what can be a complex and lengthy court process.

Assist work closely with other key partners in the region and the criminal justice system as part of a co-ordinated community response to increase the safety of victims and their children.

Operations manager for Dumfries and Galloway Fiona Mullen said: “We’re in contact with Wigtownshire Women’s Aid and also Dumfries and Stewartry so they’re clear about what we do and what we’re adding to what they do.

“We also work really closely with victim information and advice and Victim Support, the witness service to make sure what we’re all doing when we’re expecting victims and children to attend court is that we’re doing it in a trauma informed way. What we don’t want to do is re-traumatise someone though this process.”

The start of the new service has been welcomed by the region’s public protection and criminal justice professionals.

Assistant procurator fiscal for Dumfries and Galloway Sharon McCrudden said: “We are delighted to see the expansion of the ASSIST service into Dumfries and Galloway and we look forward to a close working relationship.

“Working with specialist stakeholders like ASSIST helps us to ensure victims receive the help and information they need as they go through the vital process of securing justice.”

Chief Superintendent Carol McGuire, Divisional Commander for Dumfries and Galloway, added: “I am delighted to see ASSIST rolling out their service in Dumfries and Galloway.

“Victims show immense bravery in reporting incidents of abuse, and we know that court advocacy can support them to feel safer and more engaged with the criminal justice process.”

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