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RE-VICTIMISATION OF DOMESTIC ABUSE SUFFERERS IN COURT TO END

I must say that I view with mixed reactions the Government’s pledge to end cross examination of domestic violence victims by their alleged abusive (ex) partners. The arguments on both sides have been extensively and well-rehearsed. In the blue corner is the Government’s recognition that such questioning, in effect amounts to the victims being re-victimised. In the red corner is the stiff upper lip of ‘fair play’ and the ‘traditional tenets of British justice’. Both camps make fair points.

The decision to ban ‘the controversial practice’ in family courts was based upon ‘a unanimous response to its call for evidence and stakeholder events’. The court can make an order preventing an unrepresented defendant cross-examining the alleged victim in person. In family proceedings, judges can use their general case management powers to prevent a victim from being cross-examined in person by the alleged perpetrator.

The reason for my mixed reaction is how will the ban be funded, in the Family Courts? According to an impact assessment published by the government, approximately £8m a year is needed to fund legal representatives to prevent victims being cross-examined by their alleged abuser. However, this work tends to be undertaken by Legal Aid practitioners, whose budgets have already been cut to the bone! HM Courts & Tribunals Service will also face administrative costs.

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