Domestic abuse in the news

(The Guardian)

The justice secretary has set up an emergency review to find the quickest way to ban perpetrators of domestic abuse from directly cross-examining their victims within the family court system. It is understood Truss has been discussing the issue over Christmas, and wants swift action to bring the family courts in line with the criminal courts, where the practice was stopped via a change in the law. A senior Ministry of Justice source said on Wednesay: “This is a matter we are extremely concerned about and looking at as a matter of urgency.” 

(The Guardian)

The senior judge who oversees family courts in England and Wales has said he would support “as a matter of priority” a ban on perpetrators of domestic abuse cross-examining their victims. On Friday a spokesman for Sir James Munby, the president of the family division of the high court, said that he “would welcome a bar” on the practice but that it was down to primary legislation in parliament to do this.

(The Guardian)

Violent and abusive men are being allowed to confront and cross-examine their former partners in secretive court hearings that fail to protect women who are victims of abuse, a Guardian investigation has found. Mothers involved in family court hearings have given graphic descriptions of the “torture” of being questioned by abusive men – a practice still allowed in civil cases but banned in criminal courts.

(BBC News)

Healthy relationship lessons should be compulsory in schools across Wales, AMs have said in a report. The equalities committee said it was key to the success of the assembly's "ground-breaking" law on violence and domestic abuse. Chairman John Griffiths said lessons should be taught "at an age before unhealthy attitudes towards sex and relationships have developed". The Welsh Government said it would respond to the report "in due course".

Ambitious plans are afoot in Australia. (The Guardian)

Daniel Andrews’ announcement on Thursday morning brought the former Australian of the year and family violence survivor Rosie Batty, and many other survivors and advocates in the room, to tears. The plan was among the royal commission’s recommendations handed down in March and was needed, the commission said, to detail exactly how the government would implement the enormous number of recommendations and hold itself to account.

This report looks at how scientific research should feed into social welfare systems. Although based on American research, many issues transpose to the UK.

From the Introduction:

Over the past decade, the Center on the Developing Child and the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child have sought to explain the ways in which infants and young children acquire a strong foundation for lives of health, learning, and well-being; how adversity disrupts healthy development; and how to build resilience. How can we use these insights from cutting-edge science to improve the well-being and long-term life prospects of the most vulnerable children in our society?

Government proposed legislation limiting the use of pre-charge bail will impact victims of domestic abuse, according to the College of Policing's new study.

Some MPs are pushing for changes within the family courts, based on a recent report by Women's Aid about children murdered whilst visiting estranged and abusive fathers under family court orders. (The Guardian)

Angela Smith, the Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, raised the case of her constituent Claire Throssell and her children, Jack, 12, and Paul, nine. Throssell’s estranged partner, Darren Sykes, a perpetrator of domestic violence who had threatened her and his children, murdered both boys during a contact visit to his home in 2014 by enticing them to the loft with a new train set. He then set 16 fires in the house and barricaded the home. He had been given contact by the family court despite the authorities’ knowledge of his violence and the children’s expressed fear of their father.

The new law protecting victims of domestic violence from controlling and coercive behaviour was used just 62 times in the first six months since it was introduced. (The Guardian)

Eight out of 22 police forces in England and Wales have not charged a single person with the offence, according to a Freedom of Information request. Nine forces have made two or fewer charges since the new law came into effect in December 2015, including Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Wiltshire.

A Domestic Abuse project worker in a Housing Association describes how working practices have changed and the need for Housing Associations to recognise and help tackle DA. (The Guardian)

Housing associations have an important role in the fight against domestic violence but they’re often left out of the conversation. This doesn’t make sense. Which other organisations get such unfettered access to a person’s home? It doesn’t only mean changing procedure – one of the biggest challenges for me has been to change attitudes.