08 Dec 2023
by Razi Hassan

Harnessing the power of technology to improve victim engagement in the Family Court

The Family Court plays a critical role in domestic abuse cases; however, traditional legal processes can be daunting and challenging for victims. Harnessing the power of technology offers a transformative opportunity to improve engagement, enhance accessibility, and provide much-needed support for survivors navigating the complexities of the Family Court.

Mobile Applications

Developing mobile applications that offer immediate access to emergency assistance can be crucial for victims in distress. These apps can include features such as panic buttons, real-time location sharing, and direct links to specialist support services. When deployed ethically and securely, mobile technology can become a lifeline for survivors in emergency situations.

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Virtual Courtroom Support

Attending court hearings can be emotionally taxing for survivors of domestic abuse. Virtual courtroom support services, facilitated through video conferencing, allow advocates or support personnel to provide assistance remotely. This ensures that survivors have a supportive presence during legal proceedings without having to physically be present, reducing potential trauma associated with in-person court appearances.

AI-Assisted Documentation and Legal Guidance

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a role in simplifying legal processes for survivors. AI-assisted tools can guide survivors through documentation processes, helping them articulate their experiences effectively. Additionally, AI-driven chatbots can offer instant legal guidance, answering common questions and providing information about available resources.

Remote Testimony and Evidence Submission

Technology can alleviate the challenges associated with survivors providing testimony in person. Virtual hearings and the ability to submit evidence electronically enable survivors to engage with the Family Court system remotely. During the COVID-19 pandemic most – if not all – hearings for non-molestation order application were heard remotely, ensuring a safer environment for survivors, and promoting accessibility and inclusivity in legal proceedings.

Domestic violence orders

Ministry of Justice data shows that the number of Non-Molestation Orders (NMOs) granted has been increasing since 2012. However, the latest published Quarterly Family Court Statistics show that in April to June 2023 there were 8,685 domestic violence orders made, down 8% from the same period in 2022.

A duty to protect

A recent report by His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) recommended that police forces should change their approach to using protective measures to safeguard women and girls. The report revealed that the police do not always use protective measures effectively, despite evidence of dedicated officers working to protect victims. 

The report made several recommendations including “ensuring officers are aware of referral pathways to third-party support organisations which are available to protect vulnerable domestic abuse victims.”


Accelerating access to legal support and protection

We created WEPROTECT to provide an immediate referral pathway to civil legal assistance, for anyone experiencing abuse. With WEPROTECT we’ve reduced the victim-contacting timeline to a matter of hours, and sometimes even minutes.

Often the courts will ask for evidence of physical abuse or a threat of harm in the past 14 days, as one of the ‘merits’ for applying for emergency protection. Previously the referral process could have taken two weeks, sometimes even longer, before appropriate local legal support was sought. This may have meant a victim was therefore ‘out of time’ before they have even begun the application process.

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Improving police force compliance in processing civil orders

The same HMICFRS report recommended that Chief Constables should review their policy on how their police force processes notifications on civil orders so officers can easily identify if an order exists.

Fieldwork for this report found that nearly every police force had a good overall understanding of NMOs and when it is appropriate to arrest someone for breaching an NMO. However, officers sometimes have trouble gaining access to NMOs because of inconsistent or slow recording in records systems.

As well as supporting victims to access civil remedies more quickly, WEPROTECT is also helping police forces to improve compliance in processing civil orders by reducing the time it takes for court orders to be uploaded to the Police National Computer.

The integration of technology into the Family Court system can significantly improve engagement for victims of domestic abuse, creating a more supportive and accessible legal process. From mobile applications to AI-assisted documentation, and remote testimony, technology offers a myriad of tools to empower survivors and reduce demand on the frontline.

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Razi Hassan

Razi Hassan

Co-Founder, Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance

Razi Hassan is co-founder, and direct of partnerships and communication for the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance.