This month for The Huffington Post we decided to write about an unacceptable trend in our Family Courts: violent partners directly cross examining their victims in court.
Whilst this practice is not allowed in England’s criminal courts, it has been allowed in family law proceedings for some time, despite calls to ban this kind of interrogation. The current debate in the media focuses on the alleged abuser’s rights to cross examine in person and the alleged victim’s right to be protected from further harassment during proceedings. A new law to bring the family courts in line with the criminal courts has also been proposed.
But our article focuses on something different. Despite the fact that no law is yet in place to prevent direct cross examination by alleged and convicted abusers, there is a Practice Direction which allows judges to step in and stop abusers from questioning their victims. We talk about this guidance, and ask: why are judges not using it?