Last week a Westminster Hall debate was secured by Jess Phillips MP on the protection of victims of domestic abuse in the family courts.
The MA provided a briefing for those taking part, setting out our key priorities. The document stressed the need to improve the availability of special measures and legal aid for those identified as domestic abuse victims, and also called for legislation to prevent the cross-examination of victims by their alleged abusers in the family courts. Jess Phillips touched on all of these issues in her opening speech, making reference to the input she had received from the MA and other leading charities and associations.
She also discussed her concerns around the recent implementation of Practice Direction 12J, a direction which makes it clear that it should no longer be presumed that children should have contact with parents who are perpetrators of domestic abuse. The MA's briefing on the issue was referenced, which highlighted our efforts to increase magistrate awareness of the guidance. Legal aid provision was also a key part of the discussion, and our concerns around the capital element of means-testing for legal aid were again referenced directly.
The debate went on to include a variety of contributions from across the political spectrum - including from Justice Committee member John Howell, who raised the issue of judicial training, and Shadow Minister Gloria De Piero, who called for a stand-alone victims law. The Courts Minister, Lucy Frazer, summarised proceedings and responded by reasserting the government's commitment to tackling domestic abuse and improving support for victims. She confirmed that the government would be providing a response to its domestic abuse consultation in the autumn, and that this will include a Domestic Abuse Bill.
The MA's full response to the government's Transforming the response to domestic abuse consultation can be found here.