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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Victims need to be safe in our courts

A Church expert on domestic abuse has joined calls to ban domestic abusers from cross-examining their victims in court.

Nikki Dhillon-Keane, a member of the Domestic Abuse Working Group, part of Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), has joined the Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove in demanding a change in law to prevent the practice.

Baroness Newlove said the procedure enabled abusive partners “to continue their controlling and coercive behaviour in plain sight”.

Expressing frustration at the delay in introducing a promised government ban, the Tory peer signalled she would seek to amend draft legislation aimed at reforming the courts service.

Ms Dhillon-Keane insisted that the change in law needed to happen “urgently”.

“Large numbers of victims go through the ordeal of being cross examined by their abuser,” she told The Universe.

“Perpetrators of domestic abuse know only too well exactly how to intimidate and manipulate their victims. As a result, judges often assume victims are emotionally unstable or dishonest and potentially dangerous perpetrators are awarded unsupervised access to children.

“In addition family courts do not offer protection to victims of domestic abuse, such as in a safe waiting room away from their abuser, or separate entry and exit times. This can put them at significant risk,” she added.

The Government says the Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill will ensure the courts and tribunals system is ‘fit for the 21st century’.

Read more on this story in this week’s Universe.
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Picture: A staged image on domestic violence: A woman attempts to protect herself from a violent man. (Maurizio Gambarini/PA).