Coordinated Responses
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Justice System Sector

Last edited: February 21, 2019

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The justice sector has a key role to play in a coordinated response.  A quality police and justice response is crucial in ensuring that relevant laws against such violence meet international standards: are enforced; keep women and girls safe from violence, including from the re-occurrence of further violence; hold perpetrators accountable; and provide for effective reparations for victims/survivors.  Justice systems, and all actors within the system, specifically probation services, must be accountable for ensuring that they deliver on their obligations.

See the Justice and Policing Core Elements and Quality Guidelines for a detailed description of a coordinated justice system coordinated response to violence against women   in line with good practice.

See also the Probation section in this Module.

Research from across the globe confirms that the majority of cases of violence against women go unreported to the police (Johnson et al., 2008). When women and girls do report, however, criminal justice agencies often fail to respond adequately.  An inadequate response can result in further risk to victims, the undermining of their right to an effective remedy and the revictimisation of victims/survivors within investigative and legal processes. This perpetuates non-reporting by victims/survivors.  Many professionals within the criminal justice system are not equipped to recognise potential victimisation, ask sensitively about it or deal appropriately with disclosure. Many criminal justice professionals also possess attitudes that are gender-insensitive or overtly discriminatory towards victims/survivors. Because of stigma or shame, fear of being blamed for violence, and lack of faith in the justice system, many women would rather suffer in silence, allowing perpetrators to go unpunished.

In addition, there are various structural aspects to the way violence against women cases are handled within the criminal justice system that can create obstacles to the successful completion of cases, and can also lead to additional risk and trauma for victims/survivors.  These problems include the slow processing of cases; the lack of a gender perspective within the legal system; an incident-focused approach that fails to recognise the longer-term patterns of abuse in cases of intimate partner violence and sexual abuse; and fragmentation of the different elements of the system (police, prosecutors, judges, probation) (Pence & McDonnell, 1999).  This can result in a lack of accountability for perpetrators, as cases collapse, are withdrawn or are discontinued. This systemic failure poses risk of re-victimisation of victims/survivors, compromising their safety and that of their children.

See the Justice module for more detailed information about the gaps in the justice system response to violence against women and girls and best practices in improving this response.