32.21 Of particular interest to this Inquiry is the use of specialised courts. Since the 1990s, specialised courts have flourished in the form of drug courts, mental health courts, community courts and—most importantly, for the purposes of this Inquiry—family violence courts. In Australia, family violence courts now operate in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Such a court has also been recommended recently for Tasmania. In the US, where they originated, over 200 family violence courts now exist, and since 1999, the UK has rolled out over 120 Specialised Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs). Canada has several well-established specialised family violence courts. Some have also been established in New Zealand.
Elements of specialised family violence courts
32.22 Specialised family violence courts differ significantly in their features and degree of specialisation. However, such courts will typically exhibit some, or all, of the following:
Specialised personnel: These will include specialised judicial officers, but may also involve specialised prosecutors, lawyers, victim support workers, and community corrections officers. In some cases, these personnel may be chosen because of their specialised skills, or be given specialised training in family violence.
Specialised procedures: These will include special days in court dedicated to family violence matters (‘dedicated lists’). They may also include ‘case coordination mechanisms’ to ‘identify link, and track cases related to family violence’, such as integrated case information systems, or the use of ‘specialised intake procedures’ (specialised procedures that apply when the victim first enters the court system). 
Emphasis on specialised support services: There will be someone, employed by the court or another organisation available to support family violence victims in managing the court process, and often these workers are responsible for referring victims to other services, such as counselling. There may also be specialised legal advice or representation available for both the victim and defendant.
Special arrangements for victim safety: Some courts will also include specially designed rooms and separate entrances to ensure the safety of victims, and may offer facilities which enable vulnerable witnesses to give evidence remotely.
Offender Programs: Some courts have the capacity to order or refer an offender to a program which aims to educate the offender and address personal issues to prevent re-offending, usually through counselling. Some courts have offender support workers to engage and refer offenders to behavioural change programs.
Problem solving or therapeutic approaches: Some courts adopt broader approaches aiming to ‘solve problems’ and achieve therapeutic outcomes.
The value of specialised family violence courts
32.23 The experiences of Australian and overseas jurisdictions provide some evidence of the value of specialised family violence courts in terms of improving the interaction in practice of legal frameworks relevant to this Inquiry. These benefits include:
greater sensitivity to the context of family violence and the needs of victims through the specialised training and skills of staff;
greater integration, coordination and efficiency in the management of cases through identification and clustering of cases into a dedicated list, case tracking, inter-agency collaboration, and the referral of victims and offenders to services;
greater consistency in the handling of family violence cases both within and across legal jurisdictions;
greater efficiency in court processes;
development of best practice, through the improvement of procedural measures in response to regular feedback from court users and other agencies; and
better outcomes in terms of victim satisfaction, improvement in the response of the legal system (for example, better rates of reporting, prosecution, convictions and sentencing in the criminal context), better victim safety, and—potentially—changes in offender behaviour.
32.24 Overseas jurisdictions have adopted various models of specialised family violence courts. In the US, there are over 200 such courts in operation, more than half of which are in New York, Washington, Florida, California, and Alabama. Many of these, however, simply operate dedicated lists for matters relating to protection orders. Many others adopt the ‘criminal model’ of streaming all criminal matters related to family violence.
32.25 Perhaps the most notable example is the New York model, which includes both Domestic Violence Courts and Integrated Domestic Violence Courts (IDVCs). There are now 44 IDVCs in operation, servicing approximately 90% of the population of New York. While the Domestic Violence Courts deal with criminal matters relating to intimate partners, cases are transferred to the IDVCs where there are overlapping civil, criminal, or family law claims arising out of a family violence incident between intimate partners. In IDVCs, a single judge conducts all related criminal, civil and family law matters from beginning to end. As in other specialised courts, the cases are not consolidated, but rather remain separate civil, criminal, and family law matters. As a result, each case has its own burden of proof and is conducted as any other like case would be. A resource coordinator keeps judges informed of offender compliance and refers the defendant to appropriate services.
32.26 Another notable model is the Domestic Violence Unit in the District of Columbia, which includes a fully integrated court that handles civil, criminal, and family law matters in relation to disputes ‘where the parties are related by blood, legal custody, marriage, cohabitation, a child in common, or a romantic relationship’. The court hears protection order proceedings and all misdemeanour criminal charges and, once a case has been brought to it, any family law matters involving the same parties. These are consolidated and heard in the Domestic Violence Court. The court is serviced by two intake centres that serve as a ‘one stop shop’ for victim support, and a Domestic Violence Coordination Unit—a specialised section of the court registry.
32.27 This court operates under federal legislation which requires related cases to be assigned for the duration of those proceedings to the same judge or magistrate, ‘[t]o the greatest extent practicable, feasible, and lawful’. The legislation also requires the provision of accessible materials, and an integrated computerised case management system. In addition, judges must certify to the chief judge that they will participate in the ongoing training programs.
32.28 Considerable research into the effectiveness of specialised family violence courts in the US has been conducted. The implications from this research have been stated as follows. Some, but not all, family violence courts are associated with reduced levels of reoffending. Family violence courts are associated with increased rates of conviction and decreased dismissal rates. Victims of family violence rate their satisfaction in specialised courts more highly. Victims of family violence who were aware that there was a family violence court, reported greater willingness to report repeat offending. Family violence courts are associated with more efficient case processing. Finally, family violence courts report higher levels of offender compliance.
32.29 In Canada, over 50 family violence courts are in operation. The first, and most studied, court was established in 1990 in Manitoba. The Manitoba court has specialised staff, special rooms and victim support services dealing with spousal abuse, child abuse and elder abuse. An evaluation of that court found a significant reduction in domestic homicide and recidivism, and earlier and more frequent reporting of violent offenders. The broadest program operates in Ontario, where there is a specialised family violence court in every jurisdiction. In Calgary, the specialised team includes probation officers, police, and court caseworkers. Caseworkers contact the victims shortly after the police lay charges and review each case, checking whether the victims’ wishes have changed, ensuring that victims are aware of the status of the case, as well as conducting risk assessments. As in the US, the exact models vary greatly between jurisdictions.
32.30 The UK has 141 family violence courts in operation. These deal only with criminal matters. While models vary, the UK has a National Resource Manual that lists 12 key components for successful SDVCs, including: a steering group; multi-agency risk assessment conferences; trained and specialised staff; court listing considerations; identification of family violence and data collection; victim and children support services; and a focus on equality and diversity.
32.31 The first 25 SDVCs were evaluated in 2007–08. The performance of individual SDVCs varied significantly, which obscured the success of some individual SDVCs. In more successful SDVCs, there was evidence of high arrests and more successful prosecutions; higher rates of victim support in court; and improved confidence in the criminal justice system by both victims and the community. The review concluded that
omission of any of the core components led to less successful outcomes in one or more of the measures. The combination of the overall components was pivotal in delivering success.
32.32 In New Zealand, two specialised family violence courts have been established in Waitakere and Manukau. The features of these courts include: stakeholder meetings; dedicated lists; specialised staff; duty solicitors; victim advisors; and links with community services. While these courts deal primarily with criminal matters related to family violence, applications for protection orders (which, in the New Zealand legal system, are dealt with by the Family Court of New Zealand) can be made before the specialised criminal court. If those orders are consented to, the family violence court arranges for the application to be processed in the Family Court. If the order is not consented to, the application is referred to the Family Court. The process is facilitated by a ‘Family Court Coordinator’, who is jointly responsible with Victim Advisors for information sharing between the Family Court and the Family Violence Court. A 2008 evaluation indicated that the courts have had some success, ‘in spite of considerable difficulties’, including lack of resources and training.
 An overview of these courts is set out below.
 Successworks, Review of the Integrated Response to Family Violence: Final Report (2009), 64–65.
 A national project on such courts in the US identified 208 courts with specialised dockets or dedicated judges at the end of 2009, although this was restricted to courts dealing with criminal cases: M Labriola and others, A National Portrait of Domestic Violence Courts (2009), Center for Court Innovation, ix. See D Shelton and E Donald, The Current State of Domestic Violence Courts in the United States, 2007 (2007); J Helling, Specialized Criminal Domestic Violence Courts (2005); S Kelitz, R Guerrero, AM Jones and DM Rubio, Specialization of Domestic Violence Case Management in the Courts: A National Survey (2001), prepared for the National Center for State Courts.
 See Crime Reduction Centre Information Team, Safety and Justice: The Government’s Proposals on Domestic Violence (2003).
 See L Tutty, J Ursel and F Douglas, ‘Specialized Domestic Violence Courts: A Comparison of Models’ What’s Law Got to Do With It? The Law, Specialized Courts and Domestic Violence in Canada (2008) 69.
 See New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse, Evaluating the Waitakere Family Violence Court (2007).
 S Kelitz, R Guerrero, AM Jones and DM Rubio, Specialization of Domestic Violence Case Management in the Courts: A National Survey (2001), prepared for the National Center for State Courts, 5–6, describes case management in the US courts.
 For discussion of offender programs, see Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Family Violence: Improving Legal Frameworks, ALRC Consultation Paper 1, NSWLRC Consultation Paper 9 (2010), [20.129]–[20.134].
 See Ibid, [20.140]–[20.160] for discussion of problem-solving and therapeutic courts.
 National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, Time for Action: The National Council’s Plan for Australia to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2009–2021 (2009); Law Reform Commission of Western Australia, Court Intervention Programs: Final Report Project No 96 (2009), 92; S Eley, ‘Changing Practices: The Specialised Domestic Violence Court Process’ (2005) 44 The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 113, 114–115; S Kelitz, R Guerrero, AM Jones and DM Rubio, Specialization of Domestic Violence Case Management in the Courts: A National Survey (2001), prepared for the National Center for State Courts, 5.
 S Moore, Two Decades of Specialized Domestic Violence Courts: A Review of the Literature (2009), Crime Prevention Branch, Attorney-General’s Department Center for Court Innovation, 2.
 See D Shelton and E Donald, The Current State of Domestic Violence Courts in the United States, 2007 (2007); see also M Labriola and others, A National Portrait of Domestic Violence Courts (2009), Center for Court Innovation.
 New York State Unified Court System, Integrated Domestic Violence Courts <www.nycourts.gov/
courts/problem_solving/idv/home.shtml> at 16 February 2010.
 IDVCs have authority to hear a whole range of matters, including criminal domestic violence cases, protection order hearings, and all related family issues, including custody, visitation, and divorce: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York State Domestic Violence Courts Program Fact Sheet.
 Center for Court Innovation, Integrated Domestic Violence Courts <www.courtinnovation.org/> at 16 February 2010.
 D Epstein, ‘Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence Cases: Rethinking the Roles of Prosecutors, Judges, and the Court System’ (1999) 11 Yale Journal of Law and Feminism 3, 29.
 Superior Court of District of Columbia, Domestic Violence Unit Rules <www.dccourts.gov/dccourts/
docs/Rules-DV.pdf> at 16 February 2010.
District Court of Columbia Family Court Act of 2001 11 DC CODE ANN §11–1104 (US).
 A Klein, Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges (2009), National Institute of Justice. See also M Labriola and others, A National Portrait of Domestic Violence Courts (2009), Center for Court Innovation, 9.
 S Moore, Two Decades of Specialized Domestic Violence Courts: A Review of the Literature (2009), Crime Prevention Branch, Attorney-General’s Department Center for Court Innovation.
 See J Ursel and C Hagyard, ‘The Winnipeg Family Violence Court’ What’s Law Got to Do With It? The Law, Specialized Courts and Domestic Violence in Canada (2008) 95.
 A Hennessy, Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Courts: The Rockhampton Experiment (2008) <www.archive.sclqld.org.au/judgepub/2008/Hennessy160608.pdf> at 2 October 2009, 3.
 Ministry of the Attorney General (Ontario), Programs and Services for Victims of Crime <www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/ovss/programs.asp#domestic> at 16 February 2010. See M Dawson and R Dinovitzer, ‘Specialized Justice: From Prosecution to Sentencing in a Toronto Domestic Violence Court’ What’s Law Got to Do With It? The Law, Specialized Courts and Domestic Violence in Canada (2008) 120.
 See L Tutty, K McNichol and J Christensen, ‘Calgary’s HomeFront Specialized Domestic Violence Court’ What’s Law Got to Do With It? The Law, Specialized Courts and Domestic Violence in Canada (2008) 152.
 See L Tutty, J Ursel and F Douglas, ‘Specialized Domestic Violence Courts: A Comparison of Models’, 69.
 See Department of Justice (UK), ‘More Specialist Domestic Violence Courts Offer Tailored Support to Victims’ (Press Release), 19 March 2010). This exceeds the 128 planned to roll out by 2011: Her Majesty’s Government (UK), National Domestic Violence Delivery Plan—Annual Progress Report 2008–2009.
 Crime Reduction Centre Information Services Team, Specialist Domestic Violence Court Programme Resource Manual (revised ed, 2008).
 Her Majesty’s Courts Services (UK), Home Office (UK) and Crown Prosecution Service (UK), Justice with Safety: Specialist Domestic Violence Courts Review 2007–08 (2008).
 Ibid, 5.
 Ibid, 6.
 Ministry of Justice (NZ), Family Violence Courts National Operating Guidelines (2008).
 T Knaggs, The Waitakere and Manukau Family Violence Courts: An Evaluation Summary (2008), prepared for the Ministry of Justice (NZ).