Protecting victims of domestic abuse in the family courts

July 20, 2018

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A Westminster debate examining progress made in protecting victims of domestic abuse in the family courts is scheduled to take place today (18th July 2018) and will be led by Jess Phillips MP. The debate comes at a time when some perpetrators are still being given the opportunity to cross examine their victim in a courtroom. The effects of such practice are harmful to say the least and can have lasting psychological impacts on those affected.

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. The Queen’s Speech 2017 further 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. However, delay in introducing legislation has meant that the prohibition is yet to be enforced. The consequence of this is to traumatise victims, inhibit and impede the giving of evidence therefore preventing them from speaking up for their child’s best interests and safety, something which has been confirmed by a report by Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University.

A number of organisations such as Resolution and Women’s Aid are calling for the Government to ban this practice as a matter of urgency.

Helen Greenfield, Director at Family Law in Partnership Ltd comments, ‘The ability of perpetrators to use the family court as a means to continue to control and abuse their victim is inherently wrong. The very place where victims should be protected is enabling further abuse to occur. Legislative change is vital in order to safeguard those who need it the most.’

Sources:

House of Commons Research Briefing: Progress on protecting victims of domestic abuse in the family courts

Domestic Abuse, Human Rights and the Family Court. Womens’ Aid and Queen Mary University School of Law.

Helen Greenfield is a director at Family Law in Partnership. She has been specialising in family law for over 10 years and advises on all matters relating to family breakdown, divorce and cohabitation. She has a particular interest in helping those who have been affected by domestic abuse. This can include anything from isolating a person from their friends and family, monitoring their time, taking control over aspects of their everyday life such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear, their finances or when they can sleep to threats to hurt to kill or even physical assault. Helen recognises that the legal implications of this are accompanied by a plethora of emotional and other issues and aims to ensure that clients are able to work through them with the right advice and support. Contact Helen at E: hello@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000. You might also want to take a look at our overview of Abuse in Relationships.