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Nicola Laver

Editor, Solicitors Journal

More protection for domestic violence victims in court

More protection for domestic violence victims in court


Domestic violence victims are to get greater protection under sweeping reforms of the family courts in England and Wales

Domestic violence victims are to get greater protection under sweeping reforms of the family courts in England and Wales.

Victims will be given automatic special protection in court buildings with separate entrances and waiting rooms; and protective screens in the courtroom shielding them from their abuser

There will also be other protective measures available, such as the option to give evidence through video link.

The measures will be incorporated by way of further amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Judges will also be given stronger powers including making it easier to issue barring orders preventing perpetrators repeatedly dragging their victims back to court.

Justice Minister Alex Chalk said the family courts see some of the most vulnerable in society every day and “we have a duty to ensure they are protected and not put in danger”.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) also announced the trialing of a new investigative court process to reduce conflict as part of the integrated domestic abuse courts pilot.

Judges could decide what evidence to investigate, rather than both parties presenting their cases against each other.

The reforms amount to a major overhaul of the family courts process and follow a consultation led by an expert panel which has just published its final report, Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases.

The measures form part of the government’s implementation plan in response to the recommendations set out in the report, which found that the adversarial court process often worsened conflict between parents, which could retraumatise victims and their children.

The Justice Minister said: “The report lays bare many hard truths about long-standing failings, but we are determined to drive the fundamental change necessary to keep victims and their children safe.”

The report and the proposals were welcomed by both the Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs and Dame Vera Baird QC, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales.

Jacobs said problems in the family court are the single most common concern raised with her as commissioner.

Dame Baird said: “Victims and children are in need of better protections from abusive perpetrators.”

She called on the government to action implementation of the recommendations “as a matter of urgency”.

Details are also to be announced in relation to a proposed review into the presumption of ‘parental involvement’ that often encourages a child’s relationship with both parents, unless the involvement of that parent would put the child at risk.

The MoJ acknowledged that this “requires careful consideration to implement correctly”.

It also made a commitment to further research on the long-term effects of domestic abuse on children; and to improve existing training packages for all professionals across the family justice system – introducing new training “where appropriate”.