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Specialized prosecutors can reduce barriers to justice

Last edited: December 20, 2011

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Designating particular individuals to handle violence against women prosecutions, or training a team of prosecutors on the special dynamics of cases also has proven effective in some cases (Cossins, 2007; Walker and Louw, 2003). Prosecutors may delay processes and hamper access to justice for women and girls when not appropriately trained regarding effective prosecution strategies for cases of violence against women.

  • An evaluation of a programme in Wales, UK for example, demonstrated positive outcomes when prosecutors were trained in new protocols for domestic violence cases and were trained to work closely with a women’s support and advocacy centre (Robinson, 2003).
  • Research from the United States is more equivocal, showing that sexual assault charging decisions between specialized and non-specialized prosecutors divisions were basically identical (Beichner and Spohn 2005).
  • The same U.S. study found that although there were differences in departmental policies and rates of plea bargaining and trials between the specialized and non-specialized unit, victim credibility was the real “focal concern” of the prosecutor in sexual assault cases.

For more on specialized prosecutors, see establishing special prosecutor units, and the Legislation section.