To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs,
(1) what his assessment is of the powers of a judge to prevent a party to family proceedings against whom there is an allegation of (a) domestic violence and (b) sexual abuse from cross-examining the other party about such allegations;
(2) what plans he has to prevent any party in a family case who faces an allegation of domestic violence or sexual abuse from cross-examining the other party.
I believe that the wide discretion afforded to judges in hearing family proceedings gives them sufficient powers to ensure that victims can be protected from intrusive and unfair questioning by the defendant in family proceedings. Judges that are ticketed to hear family cases will have undergone training. They can offer assistance in how questions are framed and how evidence is presented. The judge also has an inherent power to admit evidence at the trial if he considers that it is in the interests of justice to do so.
Under Order 20, rule 8 of the County Court Rules 1981 and Order 38, rule 3 of the Rules of the Supreme Court 1965, the court may, at or before the hearing of any action, order that evidence of any particular fact shall be given at the trial in such manner as may be specified by the order. This would allow the court to use special measures type facilities such as screens and TV links where they are available. A letter to county courts will be sent shortly to remind them of the need to make known to victims any special facilities that are available in the court and a poster will be provided to raise awareness of these Facilities. victims any special facilities that are available in the court and a poster will be provided to raise awareness of these Facilities.