In Cambridgeshire, a specialist Domestic Violence court sits at Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court to deal with allegations arising out of incidents within the home and the family.
Most of the cases involve the use of force to persons or property but some allegations involve offences of dishonesty such as theft of money or property. Husbands, wives or partners make the majority of allegations but parents, children or siblings also commonly bring complaints.
Finding yourself before the domestic violence court will inevitably be a difficult experience. Aside from your fears of the court process itself, you will be concerned about the future of your family relationships, you may have been excluded from the family home and there may be problems with contact with your children or access to your possessions.
Advice at the Police Station
If an allegation is made against you, you may be arrested without notice or asked to attend the police station by appointment. If you find yourself in either situation, you should ensure that you receive legal advice before answering any police questions.
Being questioned by a police officer in relation to any offence is always difficult but it is likely to be a particularly emotional experience where a family member makes the allegation. A solicitor can help you through the process and advise you at every step.
Our trained police station advisers have a great deal of experience in dealing with cases of this nature. One of our representatives can be there to provide you with free confidential and independent legal advice before your police interview and then stay with you throughout the interview procedure.
Legal aid at the police station is never means tested so you will not have to pay for our services at that stage of the case.
What if I represented myself at the Police Station?
If you didn’t have a solicitor at the police station but now find yourself on police bail for or charged with an offence of domestic violence you may now have lots of questions about what has happened to you and what is likely to happen in the future.
You may be frightened that you have been accused of something you haven’t done, you may be worried about being kept away from your home or children or you may have realised that it is time to seek help with aspects of your life such as substance abuse, alcohol addiction or anger management.
Whatever your circumstances, you may find that an appointment with one of our team can put your mind at rest or help to set you on the right track.
In domestic violence cases, bail conditions keeping you away from the complainant and his/her address are very common. If you are on bail, you may find that this means that you are excluded from your own home and either directly or indirectly prevented from seeing your children or other family members.
It can be very difficult to persuade the magistrates to lift bail conditions in domestic violence cases but our legal advisors have experience in making applications to the court for bail conditions to be lifted, or at least varied, so that family members can spend time together even before the case is concluded.
Pleading not guilty
Unfortunately, false allegations are sometimes made. The court process is designed to test the truthfulness of those who claim to be the victims of domestic violence.
We can help to prepare your defence by tracing witnesses, instructing experts and taking your detailed instructions. We can cross examine the prosecution witnesses in court and support you when you give your evidence at trial.
Legal aid is widely available in domestic violence cases but, even where you don’t qualify for legal aid, the court may still appoint a lawyer to cross examine the complainant and possibly also the other witnesses in the case.
If you have entered a guilty plea or been found guilty after trial, you will appear before the court to be sentenced. A pre-sentence report will usually have been prepared by the probation service and the magistrates will decide the penalty that is appropriate for you.
In many cases, the magistrates will have punishment in mind but ensuring rehabilitation and deterring you from committing further offences in the future are also very important considerations.
If you have issues with alcohol or drug misuse then you may find that the sentencing process is an opportunity to seek help.
Our advisors can help you to obtain a variety of references and reports to help with the sentencing process. Our solicitors are skilled in advancing mitigation to the court with a view to securing the most lenient possible sentence. We can urge the magistrates not to impose a prison sentence and seek community penalties with an emphasis on support and rehabilitation.