For many victims, appearing in Court may be the first time they have been “face to face” with their abuser for an extended period of time, often many weeks or months. If they have been in regular contact with their abuser, this is often for contact handovers with the children who, unbeknownst to them, act as a buffer between their parents. Many clients advise that they “hold it together” as they wave off their children but shake uncontrollably and burst into tears the minute they are out of sight following the encounter.
Courtrooms are cold, sterile and impersonal so the experience of attending a hearing is an exceptionally daunting one. The intensity of the situation is heightened further for the victim by being watched by the person who used to, or continues to, abuse them.
Whilst legal professionals and the Family Court have identified the need to protect vulnerable and intimidated people in Court proceedings for a number of years, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 recognises this in law. The Act ensures that special measures must be put in place to protect those who have been, or are at risk of being, victims of domestic abuse. This can include a party to the proceedings or a witness in the proceedings. The intention is to ensure that the vulnerability of a victim does not affect their participation in the proceedings or the quality of their evidence (if they are required to give it during the hearing).
“Special Measures” include the use of screens in Court, used to prevent the victim of the abuse from seeing the perpetrator of abuse (and the other way around) and the use of separate Court entrances, exits and waiting rooms for the parties.
This article is for information purposes only and does not amount to professional advice. If the issues raised effect you then professional legal advice should be sought. Please contact Victoria Aked on email@example.com for assistance.