What is being done to protect victims of domestic abuse? The answer- not enough

Domestic Abuse – Key Statistics

Statistics show that English, Welsh and Northern Irish Police receive calls about domestic related abuse every 30 seconds.

Two women are killed each week by a current or former partner in England and Wales.

There is an assumption that only women suffer from domestic abuse. But figures recorded between 2016 -2017 confirm 31% of domestic abuse victims were male.

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with domestic abuse and people are still scared or in some cases even embarrassed to admit they are in abusive relationships. Some of the stories I hear from my clients are harrowing.

What is Domestic Abuse?

There are certain myths associated with domestic abuse. Not all domestic abuse victims suffer from physical violence.

Domestic abuse can cover a wide spectrum of behaviour. It can range from emotional and controlling behaviour to threats of violence and/or financial control.

Children can also be victims of domestic abuse. Again, this can be at the hands of physical abuse, or as a result of emotional abuse; the children being used as pawns to inflict emotional harm on the other parent.

Domestic abuse victims can and do in some circumstances go on to obtain civil injunctions against their ex-partners. This can, however, result in victims having to face their ex-partners in court.

What is Being Done to Address This?

In February 2018 the government introduced the Prisons and Courts Bill which looked to put in place protection for vulnerable witnesses.

The bill was introduced to see the end of face to face cross-examination of witnesses in the Family Court. The bill gave the Court the power to put in place special measures under the current system.

The cutbacks in legal aid have led to an increase in the number of people representing themselves at trial. This means that alleged perpetrators of violence are able to cross-examine their alleged victims.

This is unacceptable and cannot continue.

Comparison between Family and Criminal Courts

A debate in Parliament on the 18 July 2018 highlighted the number of constituents who had experienced inconsistencies within the family courts. The family courts are far behind that of the criminal courts.

Let us not forget that some courts house both criminal and family cases. An alleged victim of crime could have an entirely different experience to a victim of domestic abuse in the same court building. One victim may have special measures in place to ensure they arrive through a different entrance to the perpetrator of violence. They may be met by a victim support officer, they may give evidence by video link, they may be placed in a separate room until the court hearing commences.

In comparison in the family court, some victims are left sat in an open waiting room, staring at their spouse, the perpetrator of many years of abuse. They may be cross-examined by the said perpetrator; which must be incredibly difficult for the victim to face.

The Courts in England and Wales are rolling out training to Judges and Court staff and it is envisaged that special measures will be put in place to protect victims.
People should not be afraid to leave an abusive relationship, not least for fear that they may then face their perpetrator in court.

Taylor Walton offers an initial 30-minute free appointment in relation to family law and asks for a donation of £20.00 to one of two charities, one of which is Dacorum Safe Haven which is a refuge which provides shelter to the victims of domestic violence.

Family Law Legal Advice

If you need advice in relation to family law please contact Anna Patsalides at Taylor Walton on 01727 818525 or alternatively email her at Anna.Patsalides@taylorwalton.co.uk.