Family Courts: Domestic Abuse and Offences Against Children

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 30th June 2021.

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Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that victims of (a) domestic abuse and (b) child sexual exploitation are supported by the family court system.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department

Addressing domestic abuse and improving support and outcomes for victims is a top priority for the government. In 2021-22, the Ministry of Justice will provide just under £151m for cross-jurisdictional victim and witness support services.

The Domestic Abuse Act prohibits cross-examination of victims by perpetrators and provides for automatic eligibility for special measures for victims of domestic abuse in the family courts. The Act also clarifies that barring orders are available to parents and children where further proceedings would risk causing harm, including where proceedings could be a form of continuing domestic abuse.

In addition to measures included in the Domestic Abuse Act, we are working with partners across the family justice system to deliver on other commitments set out in response to the June 2020 Final Report of the Expert Panel on Risk of Harm in the family courts. We are committed to system-wide reform to transform how survivors of domestic abuse are treated in the family courts and will be trialling Integrated Domestic Abuse Courts later this year to introduce a more investigative, and less adversarial approach to proceedings.

On child sexual exploitation in the family court, Cafcass practitioners use a specially designed child sexual exploitation screening tool. Where concerns are identified, Cafcass liaises with other agencies (including referral to Children’s Services or the allocated social worker where the child is already known) to ensure that there is multiagency information sharing and support.

Listening to the child’s experiences and acting quickly to link the child with all relevant support services, is a vital aspect of responding to the needs of these young people.

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