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Ensure child victims do not have to be cross-examined in court

Last updated: 11:00am 31 January 2019

We will ensure that child victims and victims of sexual violence are able to be cross-examined before their trial without the distress of having to appear in court.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.44

Our verdict

Cross-examination in court can be a very distressing experience for vulnerable or intimidated victims. The government automatically defines victims who are under 18 as “vulnerable victims”. Publicly providing evidence of traumatic, degrading or abusive events can upset or further traumatise such victims, especially when speaking in front of or being directly cross-examined by their alleged abuser.

Between 2013 and 2016 the government piloted a scheme in some courts where all child victims and some vulnerable adult victims were given the option of pre-recording their cross-examination evidence before the trial. Plans were made to roll-out the scheme nationwide from 2017. But the date was pushed back indefinitely by the end of that year.

Just before the general election, the government had been in the process of passing the Prisons and Courts Bill, which proposed banning the cross-examination of victims of domestic violence, including child victims, by their alleged abusers. But the bill fell as the general election was called. The new Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill has been shown to fall short on prohibiting the cross-examination of victims of domestic violence.

Following a consultation from March to May 2018, in January 2019 the government published its response and a draft Domestic Abuse Bill. The draft bill contains provisions which, if it becomes law, would fulfil this policy pledge and prohibit cross-examination of child victims in family proceedings.

In light of the draft bill, we’re marking this policy as ‘in progress’. We’ll be tracking the progress of the bill, and consulting with independent organisations to ensure the proposed legislation offers protection from in-court cross-examination for “all” child victims. Follow this policy for updates.

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