Sir James Munby backs ban on domestic abuse cross examination

Family Law|December 30th 2016

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, has backed calls for a ban on people accused of domestic violence cross-examining their alleged victims in the family courts.

Although this practice has been banned in criminal courts, it still occurs during family hearings when the accused person is an unrepresented litigant in person.

Following a story in The Guardian highlighting the issue, a spokesman for the President’s office told the paper that Sir James would “welcome a bar” but that he did not personally hold the authority to ban the practice without parliamentary legislation.

The President was very aware of the “pressing need” for changes to the way which vulnerable witnesses give evidence in family proceedings, the spokesman insisted.

“[Sir James] has made clear his view that the family justice system lags woefully behind the criminal justice system. He has expressed particular concern about the fact that alleged perpetrators are able to cross-examine their alleged victims, something that, as family judges have been pointing out for many years, would not be permitted in a criminal court.”

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  1. andrew says:

    So in the absence of legal aid how is the evidence of the complainant to be tested?
    You would have to have a two-way ban on cross-examination – level playing field, don’t you know – so the alleged perpetrator could file an affidavit saying “It’s a pack of lies; I never touched her” and what is the judge to do then?

    The answer is an equivalent to section 39 of the YJCE Act 1999 – but unless the money is found for that alleged perpetrators must be allowed to conduct their cases, cross-examination and all.

  2. spinner says:

    So a women can make a domestic violence allegation, nothing proved and nobody convicted and no evidence need be provided, just her willingness to sign the allegation which by the nature of the situation would be a he said she said type document anyway.

    From that she now gets legal aid which puts her at an advantage against her ex in litigation due to no claim for costs can be made against her and then on top of that now no cross examination can be made of her in a family court that has mainly one judge who decides the outcome based on probability of what they’ve heard during the hearing.

    Terrorists get a fairer hearing in secret courts than men get in family courts.

    • Cameron Paterson says:

      As I understand it, such a ban would only prevent the alleged perpetrator from *personally* cross-examining their alleged victim. A moot point, of course, if the alleged perpetrator cannot afford a lawyer

      • spinner says:

        That was my point it’s not an unusual situation these days. I would be interested to hear someone try to defend this as a fair system as it’s difficult not to get the impression that as long as this system is not deemed unfair to women then anything is fair game.

  3. Andre says:

    This would normally be a total abomination of justice, but in the context of the UK family court it’s normal.

    The resulting consequences will be:
    – Even more family court cases have allegation false allegation of domestic violence.
    – False allegations will be even more outlandish.
    – The victim will qualify for legal aid.
    – The suspected perpetrator will be even more likely to be litigating in person.
    – Again in the UK family court even more individuals will have the right to a fair trial further violated.

    The only positive would be, with no legal challenge almost all domestic abuse and violence allegations will be accepted as a fact of law and therefore reduces the time each case is listed in court.

    The reality is domestic violence victims and perpetrators previously exchanged bodily fluids!

    Yes their relationship may have ended but a managed Q&A session should be the minimum expected in response to any allegation brought to court.

    Alternatively if Sir James Munby’s merry band of family court judges or processes is so incompetent, maybe now it the time to return family court cases to be needing to meet all thresholds laid out in the criminal court? With the understanding of false accusers will be prosecuted for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

    This would be a much more efficient way to managing the exploding numbers of family court cases.

  4. Andrew says:

    If the right to cross-examine and otherwise take a full part in the proceedings is compromised, it’s only a question of time before he is not allowed in the building, let alone the courtroom, if his presence would be “stressful”. There is a line to be held here: no legal aid = the right to act in person.

  5. Andre says:

    It’s stupid violations of men’s civil liberties like this, why women are paid less in the workplace.

    • Stitchedup says:

      It’s very concerning that the head of the family division doesn’t appear capable of understanding the difference between an allegation and a fact. This is yet more proof that men accused of domestic abuse are treated as guilty until proven innocent. They are immediately on the back foot in the eyes of the law and are treated as perpetrators from the instant an allegation is made, even if the accuser simply states she is in fear of possible domestic abuse. This hysteria surrounding domestic abuse is destroying families and resulting in gross injustice with men being convicted for harmless actions which in normal circumstances would not be considered unreasonable let alone criminal. Polly Neat shouts and the head of family division and Liz Truss jump, it’s the tail wagging the dog!!. Our justice system is in chaos. As it is most domestic abuse cases are deliberately heard by a hostile district judge in the magistrates courts looking to convict as many men as possible for domestic abuse to meet political targets. It’s an absolute disgrace and should not be allowed to happen in a so called civilized country. There has been a clear breach of article 6 but do we hear Munby or Truss utter a word about that??

      • Andre says:

        Initially I was very angry at this suggestion, but now I simply want to get even. In a court of law, the women of the UK lack the capacity to answer questions asked by men they previously exchanged bodily fluids. Then clearly they must be unable to cope with the stresses of employment. If you absolutely must employ a woman, make sure she’s paid less than 40% of what you’d pay a man.

        Which is more preposterous mine or Sir James Munby?

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