Women’s Legal Services Queensland (WLSQ) have congratulated the Turnbull Government for introducing long overdue legislation to ban the direct cross- examination of domestic violence victims by their abusers in the family court system.
However, WLSQ has concerns regarding how the changes will implemented with no assurances around funding and given the back drop of decreased family court specialisation in the newly announced court structure.
Angela Lynch, CEO of WLSQ said the bill introduces a provision allowing the court to appoint a legal practitioner to conduct the cross-examination of domestic violence victims.
“As you could imagine, the act of personal cross-examination by a perpetrator of violence of their victim, causes significant harm, retraumatises victims, and is questionable regarding the quality of the evidence produced,”
“However, the success of the new bill is predicated on adequate funding for legal services to conduct the cross-examinations and the ability of the courts to identify that domestic violence is an issue in any given case.”
“If implemented well, this is a win for domestic violence victims. We along with other services and survivors have been campaigning for these changes for many years,”
However, Ms Lynch stated issues of the bill’s implementation require clarification.
“Under the new court restructure, identification of domestic violence is a concern as we move to a generalist court model and away from family law specialisation. Specialist domestic violence training of judges and other professionals in the system is imperative.”
“We need to ask will there be funding for community legal centres or legal aid to represent perpetrators? It’s unclear what will happen if these individuals aren’t able to gain legal representation as the wording precludes personal cross-examination.
Many people are not eligible for legal aid, can’t afford, or choose not to have a lawyer. We need to think through what happens in these circumstances. “