Justice Secretary Liz Truss has been urged to act as her department faces growing pressure to stop domestic abusers cross-examining former partners in Family Courts.
Speaking earlier this week, the head of England and Wales Family Courts, Sir James Munby, said Family Courts were lagging “woefully” behind criminal ones, where a ban is already in place.
Along with campaigners and members of the judiciary, Sir Munby has called on Secretary Truss to take action against abusive former partners.
Research published recently by Women’s Aid found that one in four abuse victims with experience of the family court had been personally questioned by their violent former partners.
The statistic is exasperated by the fact that in 80 per cent of family court cases at least one of the participants has no legal representation, leaving them vulnerable to attacks from the opposing party.
Sir Munby said he had been pressing for reform of the way in which vulnerable people give evidence in family proceedings since 2014, and had been disappointed by ministers’ “slow response.
Welcoming a bar, he said the reform should be a “matter of priority”.
“But the judiciary cannot provide this, because it requires primary legislation and would involve public expenditure. It is therefore a matter for ministers,” he said.
A ministry of Justice spokesperson has advised that vulnerable people do have access to protection in court, if requested.
These included intervening to prevent inappropriate questioning and ordering video links, protective screens and intermediaries, he said.
However, he added, “we recognise more needs to be done, which is why we are working with the judiciary to consider additional protections.”