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Domestic abuse victims will no longer be cross-examined by alleged perpetrators

Victims of domestic abuse will no longer have to face the trauma of being cross-examined by their alleged attackers in family and civil courts, the government has announced.

Woman in fear of domestic abuse

Instead, a court-appointed legal professional will carry out the cross-examination to ensure that justice continues to be done fairly for both sides. Hundreds of lawyers have already signed up to fulfil this important role.

The move, which is part of the government’s landmark Domestic Abuse Act, follows concerns that perpetrators were using the process as a means of extending their abuse, and victims were being retraumatised by their experiences in court.

Justice Minister, Tom Pursglove MP said: “Going to court about family issues can be a traumatic experience, so victims of domestic abuse shouldn’t face the extra torment of being cross-examined by their abuser.

“This is already banned in criminal trials and from today it will be banned in family and civil courts too - to protect victims, ease the stress and make sure they get a fair hearing.”

The measures in the Domestic Abuse Act (2021), which came into force in July, places a legal bar on parties cross-examining each other where there is evidence of abuse.

The ban will only be applied in cases where there is specified evidence of domestic abuse between those involved, or there is a conviction or protective injunction in place between the parties.

The move is part of the government’s efforts to reduce the trauma of appearing in court and ensure that victims are better supported. This includes introducing special measures in family and civil courts, such as screens and separate entrances, to minimise stress and help witnesses to give their best evidence.

Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO said: “Refuge is pleased that today, Section 65 and Section 66 of the Domestic Abuse Act, have come into force. The Act, which was a result of many years work across the sector and across government, is a huge step forward in addressing domestic abuse.

“We cannot underestimate the importance of these sections, which prohibit cross examination in court of survivors, by their perpetrators, coming into force, and this change comes not a moment too soon. Unfortunately, this change is not retroactive, and cases that are already open will not benefit from this positive step forward

“We know that survivor’s confidence in the justice system is already woefully low, and that could only have been compounded by knowing that your abuser was formally able to cross examine you in court and ask you direct questions about the abuse you experienced.

“Refuge expects all survivors to be afforded special measures, so they do not have to face their perpetrators, and this move today to bring Sections 25 and 26 into force will hopefully mean survivors feel more confident that they will be able to get the protection they deserve,” she added.

The government also announced that victim support services will receive more than £460 million in grant funding over the next three years, helping to fund more than 1,000 Independent Sexual and Domestic Violence Advisors and a 24/7 rape crisis helpline.

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