Women’s Aid ‘delighted’ at new cross-examination legislation for family courts
Sunday 12th February 2017
Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
“We are delighted that the Government is legislating to stop survivors of domestic abuse being cross-examined by their abusive ex-partner in the family courts. This was a key demand of the courageous survivors who have spoken out for the Women’s Aid Child First campaign. It is an enormous step forward. We especially welcome the fact that judges will appoint a legal aid lawyer to support survivors in the courtroom. This will make the family court process safer for survivors of domestic abuse, so they in turn can advocate effectively for their children’s safety. This signals that the Government intends to return to the true purpose of the family courts: to put children’s interests first. Women’s Aid is proud to have put this issue on the public and political agenda.
“As with any new legislation, there will be challenges. Cuts to legal aid continue to leave survivors of domestic abuse unrepresented in court. There must be national oversight to ensure this new law is followed, and a yearly evaluation so that we can be confident that it is being used by judges. We also want to see it become an integral part of the revised version of Practice Direction 12 J, which governs child contact proceedings in domestic abuse cases, to provide a more secure guarantee that the safety of children is paramount at all times.
“Women’s Aid thanks the Government – especially the Ministry of Justice and Justice Secretary Liz Truss – for acting so swiftly to find a way to end the agony survivors face when cross-examined by their abuser. In this at least, justice has been done. It is clear that there is no place for this abhorrent practice in 2017.”
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