High Court Judge Mr Justice Cobb has published a report into possible revisions to court rules concerning domestic violence.
The so-called Family Procedure Rules set out a complex series of operating directions for the family courts. Practice direction 12J deals with “CHILD ARRANGEMENTS AND CONTACT ORDERS: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND HARM” (sic).
In a comprehensive report, the revisions discussed by Mr Justice Cobb include changes to paragraph four, which sets out a presumption that both parents should be involved in a child’s life following divorce. MPs and the campaign group Women’s Aid had suggested that the current wording encourages the courts to pursue content with the non-resident parent without carrying out a full assessment of any risk to the child or other parent.
Paragraph 6, meanwhile, states that the court must “at all stages of the proceedings… consider whether domestic violence is raised as an issue”. If it has been, it must ensure certain actions are taken, including full consideration of the allegations, admissions and evidence and proper protection for any children of the family. This would be revised to ensure that the court process itself was not used to coerce or harass by an abusive partner.
Paragraph 10 is concerned with the need for any special arrangements required to ensure the safety of anyone attending court in a domestic violence case. Revisions would focus on waiting arrangements in court buildings in response to reports of intimidation and abuse before and after hearings.
Amendments to paragraph 28 would introduce a new ban on alleged abusers and alleged victims cross-examining each other in court.
Other changes to the general tone of the direction are set out, with a view to improving clarity and consistency.
Read the full report here. The Lord Chancellor will now be invited to approve the amendments.
The report was published alongside the latest View from the President’s Chambers by Family Division head Sir James Munby.