Welcome to another week.
A debate in the House of Commons looking at protections for victims of domestic violence will take place on Wednesday 18th July. The Westminster Hall debate will look at the government’s efforts to protect victims of abuse during cross examination in family courts.
This is the summary offered on the Parliament website:
“The Prisons and Courts Bill published in February 2017 contained provisions to prevent perpetrators of domestic violence cross examining their victims in the family court. However, the Bill fell at the General Election in 2017. The Queen’s Speech 2017 confirmed that there would be a draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill and also that a Courts Bill would re-introduce measures to prevent alleged abusers cross-examining victims directly.
In March 2018, the Government launched a consultation ‘seeking views on both legislative proposals for a landmark draft Domestic Abuse Bill and a package of practical action.’
In relation to protections in the family courts, the consultation states that new Family Procedure Rules allow vulnerable parties to family proceedings to give evidence behind a protective screen or via video link. It sought views on whether there were other aspects of the criminal court treatment of vulnerable people which the family court could learn from. A draft Domestic Violence Bill is due to be published later this session.
There have been calls for the Government to act more quickly. Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University School of Law published a report in May 2018 which argued that the Government shouldn’t wait for the Domestic Abuse Bill but should use “the quickest legislative vehicle available” and the Victims Commissioner Baroness Newlove has also argued that “time is of the essence”.”
Currently, alleged and convicted offenders of abuse are not allowed to cross examine alleged victims of that abuse in the criminal courts. This automatic presumption does not exist in the family courts.
Our question this week then, is this: do you think the law should be amended to prevent all alleged and proven abusers from cross examining alleged victims in family court?