Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts

Guide to Best Practice in Criminal Justice during COVID-19 crisis

It is anticipated that reports to police will increase during this stay-at-home and self iolsation period. Referrals to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will increase and prosecutions will increase. Police, CPS and HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have all adapted their working arrangements to respond to Government guidance, but the need to provide a robust and safe response to victims of Domestic Abuse remains as crucial as ever.

Standing Together has decades of experience coordinating Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts (SDACs).  We have produced this guidance to assist professionals working within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) and the vital specialist services supporting victim/survivors through the CJS process.

CJS COVID-19 Guidance


Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts (SDACs) form part of a collaborative approach to tackling the complexities of domestic abuse. The approach situates the Court and the Criminal Justice System as part of a Coordinated Community Response to domestic abuse and refers to a whole system, rather than simply a court building or jurisdiction.

Working together, specialist courts help to ensure the safety of the victim by identifying, tracking and risk-assessing domestic abuse, supporting victims, and sharing information effectively. The approach has been shown to increase safe outcomes for survivors, help increase convictions and reduce attrition and withdrawal rates for these cases.

Underpinning the SDAC are protocols reflecting the agreed aims of the local strategic partnership and commitment of each agency in achieving the aims.

We believe that SDACs should be a fundamental part of the government’s efforts to improve the support and protection provided to victims of domestic violence and abuse.

What we do

In 2002, Standing Together was instrumental in the development of one of the UK's first Specialist Domestic Abuse Court at Hammersmith Magistrates' Court, London in 2002. In 2012, Standing Together established another SDAC at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

We track cases, coordinate support agencies from all sectors, produce resource packs, produce data reports and conduct annual reviews of the SDACs.

For more information about the operational work we do to coordinate the courts, please see our Briefing Sheet.

What we can do for you

We can help you set up and operate a Specialist Domestic Abuse Court in your local area. If you already have an SDAC, we can evaluate and identify areas for improvement in operational work, data collection and performance management as well referral pathways and protocols. Please contact us to find out more.

“Having information regarding domestic violence history is important. A specially trained Bench is crucial in imposing the right type of sentence. The multi-agency approach really does help. It is important for the SDVC to continue as it is a valuable response.”

Senior Probation Officer

“I am very pleased to have received such understanding and support whilst going through this process. I feel that this has benefited myself and others whom have suffered domestic violence – if the occasion arose again I would not hesitate to press charges” 

Survivor of domestic abuse