By Rebecca Kriesler
Bill Shorten has announced intentions to reform the way cross examination is conducted in domestic violence cases. This change will compel judges to assess whether the victim needs to be protected during the process. This includes directing unrepresented litigants to Legal aid as well as preventing victims from being subject to confronting questioning by perpetrators. In conjunction with this, Shorten has promised to give legal aid $43.2 million over four years so all parties can be sufficiently represented without the need for personal cross examination.
These changes should have a considerable impact on the trial process and in reducing the hesitancy of victims to go to court. Under the status quo the fear of personal and threatening questioning provides a barrier for people in deciding whether to pursue legal remedies as it exposes past injuries and psychological harm. By protecting victims from this trauma, these reforms would likely help make the family court a more appealing avenue for justice.
While important and beneficial, these changes are not without potential issue. There has been some concern about the level of discretion afforded to judges as victims may not be certain of these protections and judges may lack the specific insight to understand what is in the best interest of the victim. To remedy this there have been calls for judges to receive specialised training in domestic violence, this would ensure they are more attuned to the specificities of situations and victim’s needs.
While this practise may not be perfect, it is likely with supplementary training that judges could provide an effective mechanism in protecting victims. By taking away the trauma of cross examinations and ensuring nobody goes without sufficient representation, Shorten’s reforms significantly help the accessibility of the court and hopefully the willingness of victims to come forward.
If you have experienced family violence please do not hesitate to contact Cristina Huesch or one of our experienced solicitors, Sharla Stevens or Angela Li, here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400. Or look at our support and advice page on Domestic violence: https://www.familylawincanberra.com.au/our-services-2/domestic-violence-support-and-advice-links/
Read more: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/bill-shorten-pledges-family-law-reform-over-crossexaminations/news-story/172da224f9db19d94dfa7650cd70b8b0