A SPECIAL court for domestic violence victims has been hailed a success.

The court, which operates at Worcester Magistrates Court every Monday afternoon, was launched in April.

It fast-tracks domestic violence cases and offers victims support from a number of organisations.

The aim is that fewer cases will be adjourned, fewer victims will retract statements and that more perpetrators will be brought to justice.

The organisations that run the specialised domestic violence courts, including the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and a number of voluntary organisations, have just learned that the Home Office is providing the funding for the project to continue in 2007.

Janine Daniels is an advocacy support worker with Stonham, an organisation which provides support services for the victims of domestic abuse.

She said: "The legal system is often complex and intimidating, and attending meetings and court hearings with victims, and taking them on a pre-court visit so they are familiar with the environment, can help to make it less of an ordeal."

"Domestic violence is about power and control and part of that can involve systematically destroying the victim's self-confidence.

"We can act as a voice for victims who previously may have retracted statements due to intimidation or because they were frightened to attend court."

The magistrates who sit in the domestic violence court have been through comprehensive training.

"There are currently a minimum of 20 referrals a month going to the courts and the number is rising."

It is now hoped that the Worcestershire project can be expanded into other parts of the West Mercia force area.

Det Con Jo Sparkes, of the domestic violence unit based at Bromsgrove, said: "It is marvellous to see the police and the other organisations working in partnership in this way.

"We welcome domestic violence courts as a step in the right direction to putting victims first."

Domestic violence is any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse - psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional - between individuals who are or have been intimate partners, regardless of gender or sexuality.

One in four women and one in six men will suffer domestic violence at some point in their lives while one in five of all violent crimes are linked to domestic abuse.

Five out of six murders which are committed in West Mercia involve a history of domestic violence.

Nine out of 10 incidents of domestic violence are witnessed by children under 16.

Only 35 per cent of domestic violence incidents are reported. while about 15 per cent of incidents involve men as victims.

It is rarely a one-off event and a victim typically endures 30 to 35 assaults before seeking help.

CONTACT NUMBERS Worcestershire's 24-hour Domestic Violence helpline: 0800 980 3331; The National Domestic Violence helpline: 0808 2000247; Broken Rainbow, advice for gay and lesbian victims: 08452 604460; Mankind, for male victims: 0870 7944124 Respect, for men who have abused their partners: 0845 1228609; Victim Support: 0845 3030900; Childline: 0800 1111 Stonham, for all victims of domestic violence: 01905 775690; West Mercia Constabulary's divisional domestic violence unit: 08457 444888. In an emergency ring 999.