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Progress on Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence

Domestic Abuse

The House of Commons held a further debate on 18th July in relation to the progress of protection for victims of domestic violence following the Government consultation published in March of this year.

Domestic violence is a growing problem within England and Wales.

In fact, the Crime Survey has estimated 4.3 million female victims of domestic abuse and 2.2 million male victims between the ages of 16 and 59 in the year ending March 2017.

Sadly, it is anticipated that these figures are likely to rise.

Whilst the Government have proposed, within the Domestic Abuse Bill, to allow the Court to implement special measures such as screening or a video link during proceedings, there is no automatic presumption that alleged and/or convicted offenders cannot cross-examine victims of DV in the civil and family courts.

Despite a unanimous agreement across the Government, change is yet to be implemented and calls for a change in the law regarding the cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses have been made for over a decade.

Women’s Aid has urged the Government to re-establish the provision by ‘the quickest legislative vehicle as possible’ and Senior Judge Sir James Munby acknowledges a need for reform and “would welcome a bar” on perpetrators cross-examining their victims in Court.

Indeed, it is purely a matter for Parliament to address and primary legislation to implement.

However, if this matter is not considered as a priority, victims of domestic violence will continue to be subjected to this ordeal.

As Justice Hayden made clear, this essentially undermines one of the central principles of family law – protecting the vulnerable.

I am part of a team at Morecrofts who are dedicated to assisting those who suffer at the hands of their perpetrators and I undoubtedly welcome the debate on the progress as reform in this area is long overdue.

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