Change is on the Horizon: Domestic Abuse Bill 2020
According to the Domestic Abuse Bill Factsheet, the government has reported that there are around 2.4 million victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales.
The aim of the new Bill focuses on several areas; these include raising awareness of domestic abuse and the impact it can have on victims and their families, providing support and protection for victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.
Should the Bill pass through Parliament, it will certainly have an impact on proceedings in the Family Courts. The changes proposed by the Bill include:
• Stopping perpetrators or alleged perpetrators from cross-examining a victim in person; • Giving the Court discretion to prohibit cross-examination if it is likely to diminish the quality of the evidence or cause significant distress to the witness; and • Giving the Court the power to appoint a publicly funded advocate to carry out the cross-examination where the Court thinks this is required.
Currently, an unrepresented perpetrator or alleged perpetrator is able to cross-examine the victim, which can be very intimidating. A Judge will sometimes step in to ask the questions or will ask the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator to write down their questions so they can be asked by the Judge. The proposed Bill will significantly improve practices, by placing an automatic ban on this ability to directly question the victim if the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator has a conviction, is charged with an offence or has a caution in relation to an offence against the victim or witness. If there is evidence of any other form of domestic abuse or an injunction in place, then this will also stop the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator from questioning the victim directly in court.
At Wolferstans, we have a team of family lawyers with specialist knowledge and experience of supporting and advising clients when they have suffered domestic abuse. This includes representing clients to obtain an injunction to protect the safety of them and their children. It also includes advising clients and representing them in divorce and financial proceedings, and proceedings relating to arrangements for children.
If you would like further information or think that the Family team at Wolferstans can support you and your family, please contact us on 01752 292288.