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Nicola Laver

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Domestic abuse victims' voices to be heard

Domestic abuse victims' voices to be heard


Domestic abuse survivors have been asked by government for their experiences of how the family court protects them and their children in private family proceedings.

Domestic abuse survivors have been asked by government for their experiences of how the family court protects them and their children in private family proceedings.

A three-month project has just announced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) with the aim of shaping the future of the family court by engaging with victims.

The government says it wants to strengthen child protection in the family court by examining the impact of continued contact with an abusive parent and the general well-being of children in the current system.

The courts must consider the potential harm to the child and parent where there is evidence of domestic abuse. There is no automatic right to parental involvement.

An expert panel will oversee the project, which follows concerns set out in the government’s Domestic Abuse Consultation.

The views of those providing support services to parents involved in such cases including professionals are also being sought.

The scope of the review includes different types of coercive control and will explore how the court handles multiple and repeat applications and whether this is used to coerce and frustrate victims.

Also within scope is how the courts handle offences such as rape, child abuse, murder and other violent crimes. The use of barring orders will also be considered.

The project extends to procedural issues such as how Part 3A of the Family Proceedings Rules and Practice Direction 3AA (concerning special measures) and Practice Direction 12J (child arrangement cases where domestic abuse is a factor) are being applied.

Justice Minister Paul Maynard said: “Domestic abuse destroys lives, which is why survivors and their children must have every confidence that they will be protected in the family courts.”

The consultation closes on 26 August.

This month has seen a raft of announcements by government focusing on domestic violence, most notably the Domestic Abuse Bill setting out sweeping proposals to protect victims.

A new statutory definition of domestic violence to include economic abuse is proposed, along with the creation of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the introduction of domestic abuse protection notices and domestic abuse protection orders restricting the actions of offenders.

The Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said: “Having spoken to survivors of domestic abuse, I have been both shocked by their stories and moved by their resilience and strength. As a government, we must do all we can to support those who have suffered this horrendous abuse.

“The Domestic Abuse Bill goes further than ever before and recognises the complex nature of domestic abuse, while putting the needs of victims at the forefront.”

Earlier this year, the government awarded a grant of nearly £900k to the Personal Support Unit (PSU) and the Citizens Advice Witness Service to fund emotional and practical support for domestic abuse victims involving in family court hearings.