Judges presiding over domestic abuse trials are to be given new powers to intervene in the conduct of a trial to prevent alleged victims being subjected to aggressive questioning, the government has announced.
They will also be provided with separate waiting rooms and court entrances, along with protective screens, so they do not have to face their former spouse or partner during the hearing.
These new measures have been announced as a new domestic abuse bill continues its progress through parliament, and are intended to minimise the emotional trauma of giving evidence in court, and some will be added to the bill itself.
The new judicial powers will initially be trialled in a limited number of courts – a practice known as a ‘pilot programme’. The plans include a radical ‘one family, one judge’ system in which family proceedings concerning allegations of domestic abuse (or example, to limit access to children) will be combined with any criminal proceedings for violence or abuse, in order to minimise necessary court appearances.
The new measures are based on the findings of a newly published report, entitled Assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law cases.
Justice Minister Alex Clark said:
“Every day the family courts see some of the most vulnerable in society and we have a duty to ensure they are protected and not put in danger.”
Family Division President Sir Andrew McFarlane added:
“We are keen for judges to be fully involved in trialling reformed processes for family cases which involve allegations of harm. We hope that parliament will be able to allocate the recommended resources which are identified by the MoJ expert panel as necessary to implement the proposals.’
Read the report here.
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