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Cross-examination of victims of domestic abuse

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A High Court Judge has called for a change in the law that currently allows alleged domestic abusers to cross-examine their victims during civil proceedings. 

Justice Hayden said that he would refuse to hear any future cases where this is allowed to happen. 

The comments were made during the case of Re A (a minor) (fact finding: unrepresented party) where a father was allowed to question the mother of their son whom he had subjected to physical and emotional abuse. Although the mother was permitted to appear via video link, with her back to the screen, Justice Hayden said that the process of her being cross-examined by her abuser was itself “abusive”, especially apparent as the mother became “exhausted and extremely distressed” 

He stated that “It is a stain on the reputation of our family justice system that a judge can still not prevent a victim being cross examined by an alleged perpetrator” and added “No victim of abuse should ever again be required to be cross-examined by their abuser in any court, let alone in a family court where protection of the children and the vulnerable is central to its ethos.” 

Calls for a change in the law regarding the cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses have been made for over a decade now. Whilst proposals have been made to reform the law in this area, change has yet to occur. So long as this is the law, victims of abuse will continue to be subjected to this ordeal. As pointed out by Justice Hayden, this ultimately undermines one of the central pillars of family law which is the protection of the vulnerable.