Victims of domestic abuse called to share views on how well the law protects them

29/07/2019
Author: Amanda Connor

Survivors of domestic abuse are being asked to share their experience of how well the courts protect them and their children in private family law proceedings.

The review, which is open until the 26th August, is being overseen by a panel of experts from the Judiciary, academia, social care, policy officials and third sector organisations. It aims to examine how the family courts manage the safety and well-being of children when there is a risk of domestic abuse.

The consultation will look in to a number of issues, including the effectiveness of ‘barring orders’ - court orders which can prevent abusive parents from making further court applications that often serve to simply re-traumatise their victims.

In addition, it will consider what the risk to children and parents is to continuing to have a relationship with the parent who has a history of abusive behavior. This will also cover where contact between the parents has been ordered by the courts.

How much encouragement victims are given to report crimes will be investigated, along with the standard of domestic abuse information shared with courts. Gaining a better understanding of the types of coercive control will also be explored. On a wider focus, it will look at how the family courts deal with other offences such as rape, assault, sexual assault, child abuse, violent crime and murder.

The review is part of a wider spotlight on child safety, health and well-being in the current system and follows a number of government changes to tackle domestic abuse. Legislation banning abusers from cross-examining their victims in court has recently been introduced, and there has been a widening of evidence requirements to enable victims of domestic abuse greater access to legal aid.

Earlier in July, the Government introduced its Domestic Abuse Bill, which outlined a raft of measures to improve protection for domestic abuse victims. This included outlining the first statutory definition of domestic abuse and appointing a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to champion victims and survivors. The Bill also introduced new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders. Automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in criminal courts has also been implemented.

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