Women's Aid have published a new report, "What about my right not to be abused?" Domestic abuse, human rights and the family courts. The report represents research carried out through the latter part of 2017 to early 2018 and replicates earlier work highlighting some of the problems female domestic abuse victims face during family court proceedings. These include lack of understanding about domestic abuse among justice professionals, lack of support (both before court and during proceedings), and court orders which exacerbate the fear and distress of women (such as requiring contact with an abusive partner).
The report references some of the positive changes that have been made over the last six months, especially the publication of the amended Practice Direction 12J, the new Practice Direction 3AA to support vulnerable witnesses and the changes to ensure victims of domestic abuse are exempt from attending mediation before coming to court.
As the research did not generally seem to cover cases since these changes came in, it is difficult to know what impact they have had. In particular, the MA has been working with Women's Aid to increase magistrate awareness about the new Practice Direction 12J, and it is hoped this has been effective in ensuring that it is not presumed children should have contact with parents who are perpetrators of domestic abuse.
However, the report also identifies areas where further change is needed, including in relation to legal aid support for victims, ensuring special measures (such as separate entrances and waiting rooms) are available in family courts, and legislative change to ensure victims are not cross-examined by their abusers.
The MA supports Women's Aid in calling for these further changes.