More than three years after the government pledged to end the cross-examination of domestic abuse victims by their alleged perpetrators in court, revised legislation has been brought back to parliament to end the controversial practice.
Details were unveiled today of an ‘enhanced’ version of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which was introduced last July but whose progress was halted by September’s unlawful prorogation of parliament and December’s general election. The landmark bill will have its first reading in the House of Commons today.
The government said the bill improves on the previous cross-examination pledge and this will now apply to all family proceedings where there is evidence of domestic abuse. Under a pilot, the government will fund any court costs for police applying for domestic abuse protection orders and notices. County councils and unitary authorities in England will be required to provide support and safe accommodation for victims and their children.
Home secretary Priti Patel said: ‘An astonishing 2.4 million people in England and Wales have suffered domestic abuse. That is unacceptable, and the reason why it is so important to shine a light on this crime.’
Justice secretary Robert Buckland said the bill will strengthen protections for victims ‘while ensuring perpetrators feel the full force of the law’.
Adina Claire, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid Federation of England, said she was pleased the government has listened to the organisation’s calls for a wider cross-examination ban ’but there remains a long way to go before the family courts are truly safe’.
Law Society president Simon Davis said many of the bill’s proposals, such as expanding the definition of domestic abuse and banning alleged abusers cross-examining victims in court, are long overdue. However, he said: 'As the bill finally progresses through parliament, we urge the government to put the necessary funding into legal aid, support services, education and wider government policy - giving victims the access to justice they so deserve.'