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.
Want to know more?
- Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: Consultation Response and Draft Bill – Gov.uk
- Process evaluation of pre-recorded cross-examination pilot (Section 28) – Gov.uk
- Revealed: how family courts allow abusers to torment their victims – The Guardian
- Domestic abuse survivors will not have to come face-to-face with perpetrators in court under Government proposals – The Independent
- Domestic abusers still able to cross-examine victims in court – The Guardian