10:54, February 26 220 0 theguardian.com

2018-02-26 10:54:05
Rudd urged to prevent cross-examining by domestic abusers

The government has been urged to prevent domestic abusers from being permitted to cross-examine their victims in family courts.

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, unveiled a raft of proposals on Monday relating to the treatment of domestic abuse survivors in court, including making them automatically eligible for special measures such as giving evidence behind screens.

The charity Women’s Aid welcomed the plans but said domestic abuse survivors were still being subjected to the “abhorrent practice” of being interrogated by their abusers in family courts.

The prisons and courts bill proposed to ban the practice, but it was scrapped when Theresa May called a general election.

Rudd’s proposals will form part of a consultation on what to include in a forthcoming domestic abuse bill.

Katie Ghose, the chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “We know that the cross-examination of victims in the family courts by their abusive former partner is far too common.

“The Ministry of Justice committed to ban perpetrators of domestic abuse from cross-examining victims in the family court. However, the legislation, set out within the prison[s] and courts bill last year, fell through due to the general election.

“It is a matter of urgency that the government prioritises the implementation of the ban on this abhorrent practice, be it through the courts bill or the domestic violence and abuse bill. Survivors must be able to safely access justice in both the criminal and family courts in their escape from domestic abuse.”

The Home Office has proposed giving domestic abuse survivors a similar status to victims of modern slavery and sexual offences.

The consultation is expected to open in March.

Writing in the Times on Monday, Rudd, said: “It [the consultation] will ask how we can improve our response in the home, in the community, in the courtroom, through to public services, accommodation for women fleeing their abuser, as well as how we can strengthen our laws to stop perpetrators and when possible rehabilitate them.

“We want to remove one of the barriers that victims encounter in court: coming face to face with their alleged abuser.”

The impact of the bill risks being overshadowed by the crisis faced by women’s refuges amid a major funding overhaul proposed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

It plans to remove refuges and other forms of short-term supported housing from the welfare system.

This would mean vulnerable women fleeing abusive partners not being able to pay for their accommodation using housing benefit, the final guaranteed source of income available to refuges. On average, housing benefit makes up 53% of refuge funding.

Topics

Week News

Month News

Year News