Survivors of domestic abuse and other harmful conduct are being invited to share their experiences of how well the family courts protects them and their children in private family law proceedings.
- Public ‘call for evidence’ to strengthen protection for children in family courts
- Will consider impact of continued contact with parents with a history of abuse
- Part of wider spotlight on child safety, health and well-being in the current system
A Government call for evidence, launched today (19 July 2019), is part of a three-month project overseen by a panel of experts, aimed at throwing a spotlight on how the family courts manage the safety and well-being of children when there is a risk of domestic abuse.
Responding directly to concerns raised recently including in the Government’s Domestic Abuse Consultation, the review will also consider the use of ‘barring orders’- court orders which can prevent abusive parents from making further court applications that often serve to simply re-traumatise their victims.
Crucially, it will also examine what the risk is to children and parents in continuing to have a relationship with a parent with a history of abusive behaviour, including where continuing contact between the parents is required by court orders.
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.”
“Just this week we introduced legislation that will ban abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts, and throughout our review we will be engaging with victims across the country to make sure we are doing all we can to protect them further.”
“The review – ordered by ministers in May – will also consider the level of encouragement victims are given to raise concerns, the standard of domestic abuse information shared with courts, as well as looking to better understand the different types of coercive control.”
It will also look at how these courts handle a range of offences including rape, child abuse, assault, sexual assault, murder and other violent crimes.
The focus on family courts follows a number of government changes to tackle domestic abuse, including widening the evidence requirements to allow victims access to legal aid.
In addition, £900k has been allocated to fund organisations who provide emotional and practical support to domestic abuse victims before, during and after hearings in the family court. Earlier this week the Government introduced its Domestic Abuse Bill, which outlined a raft of measures to further protect victims, including:
- introducing the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse, which will include economic abuse
- establishing a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to champion victims and survivors
- introducing new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders
- providing automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts
The call for evidence will close on 26 August.