A high court judge has called for a ban on domestic abusers being allowed to cross-examine their victims in court.
The news comes as Mr Justice Hayden heard the case of Pakistani mother, referred to as M, who was the victim of her husband’s domestic abuse.
The woman, who along with her son was granted asylum within the UK, described how her husband wanted their child to return to Pakistan, where he now lives. She also described how he had been, “short-tempered, domineering and cold” towards her, beaten her and threatened to kill her.
Under current laws, the husband, who appeared in court via video, was allowed to cross-examine the victim. His cross-examination also meant that he was allowed to ask the woman questions directly.
Although the woman agreed to be cross-examined, the judge recognised that the incident was an uncomfortable one, where she looked “both exhausted and extremely distressed.” Hayden announced that he was not “prepared to hear a case in this way again.”
UK laws currently allow abusers to interrogate and question their victims within family courts. There have been many campaigns calling for this to be stopped, and in February, Justice Secretary Liz Truss announced that the Ministry of Justice was introducing measures to end the practice, which she described as “humiliating and appalling.”
In a statement about the case, Hayden said, “I have found it extremely disturbing to have been required to watch this woman cross-examined about a period of her life that has been so obviously unhappy and by a man who was the direct cause of her unhappiness.”
“She has at times looked both exhausted and extremely distressed.”
“M was desperate to have the case concluded in order that she and [her son] could effect some closure on this period of their lives and leave behind the anxiety of what has been protracted litigation.”
“It is a stain on the reputation of our family justice system that a judge can still not prevent a victim from being cross-examined by an alleged perpetrator.”
“This may not have been the worst or most extreme example, but it serves only to underscore that the process is inherently and profoundly unfair.”
“I would go further, it is, in itself, abusive.”
“For my part, I am simply not prepared to hear a case in this way again.”
“I cannot regard it as consistent judicial oath and my responsibility to ensure fairness between the parties.”
“I understand that there is a real will to address this issue but it has taken too long.”
“No victim of abuse should ever again be required to be cross-examined by their abuser in any court, let alone in a family court where protection of children and the vulnerable is central to its ethos.”