Domestic Abuse

Justice – in the House of Commons at on 14 May 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

What steps he is taking to prevent domestic abuse perpetrators from using the justice system to extend control over victims.

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

The Government have taken significant steps to prevent domestic abusers from using the justice system to extend control over their victims. Section 65 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 prevents them from cross-examining their victims and requires special measures to be available in court, and we have also amended prohibition orders under section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989, which can bar any individual from making a further application to court without permission when abusive partners are judged to be bringing victims back to court without reasonable purpose.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

My hon. Friend takes domestic abuse very seriously, but is she aware that perpetrators all too frequently seek to use the civil courts to perpetrate further abuse of their victims, often with the support of legal aid and often using “experts” with no relevant qualifications to make accusations of, for instance, parental alienation or child grooming? Can she please reassure me that the Government are taking this matter seriously, to ensure that perpetrators do not continue to use our courts system to retraumatise their victims?

Photo of Laura Farris Laura Farris Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

My right hon. Friend asks an excellent question, but let me first remind her that this is precisely the issue at which the section 91(14) prohibition orders are directed. Moreover, one of the changes made under the Domestic Abuse Act gave the courts themselves the power to make those orders of their own volition, rather than waiting for an application from the victim.

As for the second part of my right hon. Friend’s question, to the extent that we are making changes to legal aid, all those changes are in favour of the victim. We are removing illiquid and contested assets from consideration of means, all protective orders can be obtained without any assessment of means, and we are undertaking a legal aid means test review to make the test much more generous to victims.

My right hon. Friend’s final point concerned the so-called experts who give evidence on parental alienation. The Government do not recognise the concept of parental alienation, and do not believe that it is a syndrome capable of diagnosis. We have responded to the Domestic Abuse Commissioner on this subject in writing.