Direct cross-examination ban gets the go ahead
The Morrison Government today passed legislation ensuring victims of family violence will be protected from direct cross-examination by their alleged perpetrators in family law proceedings.
The Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Act 2018 protects victims of family violence by banning direct cross-examination in certain circumstances, and requiring instead that cross-examination be conducted by a legal representative.
The Government is providing ongoing funding, initially $7 million over three years as announced in the Women's Economic Security Package, to establish a scheme under which legal aid commissions will be funded to provide legal representation to parties subject to the ban.
"The reforms, and associated ongoing funding, will provide better protection for victims of family violence and, most importantly, perpetrators will never be able to cross-examine their victims in the future," the Attorney-General said.
"Direct cross-examination by an alleged perpetrator can expose victims of family violence to re-traumatisation and can affect their ability to give evidence.
"The new Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties Scheme will be available to all parties who are subject to the ban on direct cross-examination – the usual legal aid means and merits tests will not apply.
"The Government has worked closely with National Legal Aid on the reforms and to accurately cost the scheme, and has followed information and advice from National Legal Aid to ensure that the scheme is well designed and fully funded."
These new arrangements will apply in 2019, after the courts have had an opportunity to put necessary procedural mechanisms in place.
"Fortunately, the current incidence of direct cross-examination of victims of family violence is rare," the Attorney-General said.
"Recent research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that there were 173 final hearings in the federal family law courts over two years between 2015 and 2017, involving allegations of family violence where one or both parties were self-represented."