‘Insufficient lawyers’ to cross-examine parties in domestic abuse cases
By Monidipa Fouzder >>
(22 July 2022)
The Law Society has welcomed a ban on domestic abuse complainants being cross-examined by the alleged perpetrator in family and civil proceedings – but is worried that not enough lawyers will be available to step in.
Measures under the Domestic Abuse Act preventing parties being cross-examined by their alleged abuser came into force yesterday – which is already banned in criminal trials. Cross-examination will be be conducted by a court-appointed lawyer.
The Ministry of Justice said hundreds of lawyers have signed up to the qualified legal representative scheme but the Law Society is concerned the scheme will not deliver the intended benefits.
Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: ‘We welcome the introduction of this scheme, which has been brought in following the successful call by the Law Society and others for domestic abuse complainants not to be cross-examined by those alleged to have abused them.
‘We are, however, concerned that the way the scheme has been implemented and the remuneration on offer means there will be insufficient advocates to undertake the work.
‘There is therefore a significant risk that the scheme will not deliver the benefits intended from it. We urge the MoJ to ensure there are regular reviews and assessments of how effectively the scheme is fulfilling its intention of protecting victims.’
The ministry is proposing a fixed fee scheme based on the final day hearing fees under the current legal aid family advocacy scheme, with a 25% uplift for the first day of advocacy. The department believes court-appointed advocates will spend no more than a day in the vast majority of cases.
The department expects a private family children case, before a circuit judge, which has a single case management hearing lasting 30 minutes (£68.94) and a hearing with cross-examination lasting one day (£545.91), will be the situation most frequently claimed by lawyers under the scheme.
(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)