Domestic Violence: Women Still Stand by Their Men in the Dock; Domestic Violence Reported to Police Is on the Increase. Investigations Editor Richard Warburton Looks at Three Initiatives across the West Midlands to Tackle It, Including a Special Court Set Up in Wolverhampton. in the Case Studies Real Names Have Been Changed
Byline: Richard Warburton
A group of nervous looking men stare in silence at the floor outside Court 4 waiting to be called before the region's first specialist hearings for domestic violence cases.
A perfect cross-section of society, each man bobbed his knee up and down in nervous anticipation and tapped out imaginary tunes on his leg with his fingers.
Their discomfort was added to by hard, plastic chairs in a stark, bleak corridor that would not even allow them a much needed cigarette.
Some men had done their best to impress the magistrate with a close shave and smart suit while others played with the frayed ends of their jeans, not even bothering to tie the laces of their trainers.
One man chatted with his solicitor, while another chatted to his mate who had turned up for moral support and another simply picked peeling paint from the wall. All wanted to be a million miles from where they were - both mentally and physically.
All the men were charged with similar offences of grievous or actual bodily harm against their girlfriends and wives. They look like condemned men, full of remorse.
Surprisingly, many of the men, aged between 24 and 55, were accompanied by the women who had made the allegations against them.
As the morning went on it became evident that most of the women were there to support their partners - and deciding to drop all their original criminal charges.
The first case to be heard was typical of the nine to come before magistrates.
A 46-year-old-man had been arrested for actual bodily harm two weeks earlier after punching his wife of 27 years in the face in a busy pub.
The man had accused his wife of looking at another man. When she pleaded her innocence, he struck her and split her lip.
However, after the man's first appearance in court his wife decided to make a retraction statement and the case was dismissed. The man agreed to be bound over to keep the peace for six months.
The magistrates, the lawyers and the court staff did not seem surprised that the wife was willing to stand by her man despite his violent behaviour.
The next case was called without a second thought.
With the look of a man who had just had the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders, the accused walked out of the court smiling to be met by his wife.
The Domestic Violence Court at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court started sitting in September to deal with the 100 domestic violence cases that are heard there each month. It sits every Tuesday and deals with an average of more than 20 cases.
Improved facilities include separate entrances and waiting areas so victims do not have to sit by the accused, specialist police officers in court, magistrates who have received domestic violence training and witness support staff who can arrange pre-court visits and assist with arrangements in court. …