Family Court proceedings can be daunting, whether you are the Applicant or Respondent, especially if you are a victim of Domestic Abuse. If you are a party to Family Court proceedings, and you are a victim of domestic abuse perpetrated by the other party, the Court can direct for Special Measures at any Hearing to assist you in participating and/or giving evidence.
Special Measures are measures put in place by the Court for the victim, to ensure that they are able to fully participate within the proceedings without suffering any further harm. Previously, a victim of domestic abuse would have to make an application for Special Measures to be implemented. However, Section 63 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which came into force on 1 October 2021, provides that where a party is, or is at risk of, becoming a victim of domestic abuse, they will automatically be eligible for Special Measures within family proceedings. This is because the Court will assume that the party’s ability to participate or give evidence, and the quality of their evidence, will be diminished should these measures not be put in place.
However, although the Court will have these assumptions, it is still a matter for the Court to decide which of the available Special Measures are necessary in each case.
Special Measures include, but are not limited to, the following:-
- Screens in the Court room to prevent a party from being seen by another;
- Separate entrances and exits in the Court building;
- Separate waiting areas and/or waiting rooms;
- Attending Court via video link instead of in person.
Recently, the Ministry of Justice has made £200,000 available for the Courts to purchase screens.
It is important that a vulnerable party is provided adequate protection within the Court setting to enable them to participate within proceedings. Should Special Measures not be put in place, or the incorrect Measure used, then this can have a serious effect on the proceedings as a whole. A victim of Domestic Abuse may not give evidence in the same way as someone who is not a victim. For example, they may not feel confident enough to explain events in detail if their abuser is sitting opposite them.. Therefore it is mandatory that Special Measures are considered. A further safeguard that the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has implemented, is that no victim of domestic abuse can be cross-examined by a perpetrator, if that perpetrator is a litigant in person. The Court will usually ask the perpetrator to send in a list of questions they would like to ask the victim, and the Court will determine which question is reasonable, and the question will be asked by the Judge.
If you have been a victim of domestic abuse and you need to apply to the Court, or you are already within proceedings, please contact a member of our family law department on 01788 579579 or 01295 270999 or at email@example.com
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