We are determined to improve the experience of victims of domestic abuse in the family justice system. A revised version of Practice Direction 12J, which sets out a framework for judges to use in child arrangements cases where there is a context of domestic abuse, was introduced in October 2017. The revision made several amendments to the practice direction that were intended to place greater emphasis on the indirect harm that domestic abuse can cause to a child and non-physical forms of abusive behaviour. The final decision in a child arrangements case is made by the judge, based on their assessment of the evidence and the risk present within each case.
The Ministry of Justice does not hold data relating to the use of Practice Direction 12J within individual cases, as data collected on private law children cases does not routinely record which cases involve allegations of domestic abuse. The Judicial College has provided all family judges and magistrates with training on how to address the challenges faced by vulnerable people, including victims of domestic abuse, and issues of domestic abuse are addressed on an ongoing basis as part of the college’s regular training programme.
The Ministry of Justice will continue to work with other relevant departments and stakeholders to consider how we can better protect vulnerable mothers and children in our courts. This includes working with the judiciary on how existing practice directions are followed.