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Family Law

Domestic Violence – Victim Cross Examination

By October 28, 2016No Comments

Editorial comment: It doesn’t seem fair that a person accused of acts involving domestic violence should be allowed to cross examine the person they have been allegedly violent towards. Does it? Whilst we have to remember the person has been accused, not found guilty, we have to find a better way to manage the risk, without affecting the accused persons ability to in some way ask questions. When developing a fix, we must remember that the same questions may well come from a lawyer (or other third party). We have to find a fix, but there is no easy fix.

ABC political reporter Peta Donald reports on the ABC website:

Family violence summit: Women’s legal group calls to end victim cross-examination by ex-partners

A peak women’s legal group will use today’s national summit on family violence to push for an end to victims being directly cross-examined in court by their ex-partners.

Key points:

  • Peak women’s legal group says issue of cross-examination in court by ex-partners could be easily fixed
  • Women’s group welcomes government funding, but says it will not be enough
  • Federal Opposition says Government budget cuts are not helping efforts to reduce family violence
  • Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, along with state and territory leaders, ministers for women and more than 100 others — including domestic violence experts and business leaders — will attend the Council of Australian Governments Family Violence Summit in Brisbane.
  • They will review progress and highlight best practice around the country.

Women’s Legal Services Australia called on the meeting to consider the issue of women regularly being directly cross-examined by abusive former partners during Family Court proceedings.

“It’s not only traumatising for the victim of violence, it can actually affect their ability to give evidence clearly and accurately,” spokeswoman Joanna Fletcher said.
“Courts don’t actually even then have the information they need to keep the children safe, so it’s a double whammy.

“We know from the Family Law Council that more than half of the parenting cases that come before the Family Court, one or both parties are actually unrepresented for some or all of the proceedings.”

The group argues the cross-examination issue could be easily fixed.

Government funding not enough to ‘plug the gap’

The Federal Government will use the summit to detail how it plans to allocate $30 million of funding for frontline legal assistance and family law services.

Family violence support services:

  • 1800 Respect national helpline 1800 737 732
  • Women’s Crisis Line 1800 811 811
  • Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491
  • Lifeline (24 hour crisis line) 131 114
  • Relationships Australia 1300 364 277

It will include $18 million for integrated duty lawyer and social support services in family courts.

Women’s Legal Services Australia welcomed the funding, but said it would not be enough to “plug the gap” left by funding cuts to community legal centres, which provide legal services to many family violence victims.

“Two years ago, the Productivity Commission recommended the Government invest $200 million immediately in the legal assistance sector,” Ms Fletcher said.

“Instead what’s happening in the middle of next year is a reduction in funding to community legal centres in particular.”
Labor accuses Government of being slow to spend money

The Federal Opposition said government budget cuts were not helping efforts to reduce family violence.

It said the cuts included $35 million from Community Legal Centres, and $88 million from the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

Labor also accused the Government of being slow to spend money allocated to trials of innovative technology to keep women safe, spending $180,000 of the $12 million it had promised.

One in four Australian women has experienced violence at the hands of her partner or ex-partner, and, on average, one Australian woman is killed each week.

When Mr Turnbull first took office, he said it was a national disgrace and vowed to lead a cultural shift that would see Australia known internationally as a country that respects women.

His government has a $100 million national action plan to improve frontline services, make women safer in their homes, and to change the attitudes of men who believe violence is acceptable.

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