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Prisons & Courts Bill to address cross-examination of victims by alleged perpetrators in family proceedings

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Proposals announced in wide-ranging Bill

  • The wide-ranging  Prisons & Courts Bill, published today, will seek to solve the long running problem of victims being cross-examined by their alleged perpetrators in family proceedings.

    It is proposed that s47 of the Bill will, when enacted, insert a new Part 4B into the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 that in the MoJ's words will 

    "allow courts to put an end to the face-to-face cross examination of vulnerable witnesses in the family courts, so that people who need to be heard are not afraid of speaking out."

    The provisions will have the practical effect of:

    a) introducing a blanket ban on cross-examination in person in certain specified circumstances – for example, where the would-be questioner has been convicted of committing a violent or sexual offence against the witness; 

    b) giving the court a discretion to prohibit such cross-examination in other specified circumstances – for example, where the court is satisfied that such cross-examination would cause significant distress to the witness; 

    c) requiring the court to consider alternatives to cross-examination where a prohibition on cross-examination in person applies; 

    d) giving the court a power in specified circumstances to appoint a funded legal representative to ask questions on behalf of a party who is prohibited from cross-examining in person; and e. making provision for the public funding of such legal representatives

    The Bill received its First Reading today. 

    The MoJ has produced a helpful, short Fact Sheet on it sproposal that you can download here.

    The full text of the Bill can be found on the Parliament website here.  


Published: 23/02/2017

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