Concerns that abusers are being permitted to confront and cross-examine their former partners in family court hearings have received media coverage throughout the Christmas period. The practice has been banned in criminal courts, but can still arise in the family court. Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, has since said he would support, “as a matter of priority”, a ban on perpetrators of domestic abuse cross-examining their victims.
The Chairman of the MA, Malcom Richardson, responded to the original Guardian investigation into this matter in a Letter to the Editor published on 27 December 2016. Malcolm referred to use of Practice Direction 12J, which outlines that victims of violence are likely to find direct cross-examination by their alleged abuser frightening and intimidating, and thus it may be appropriate for the judge or lay justices to conduct the questioning on behalf of the other party. However, he also points out that magistrates have long argued for the same provisions in the family court as in the criminal courts to protect victims of domestic abuse from their perpetrators.