On the 21st July 2022 Sections 65 and 66 were introduced into the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and apply to the family and civil courts in England and Wales. The effect of these provisions is to prohibit perpetrators and alleged perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person and vice versa in specified circumstances.
The provisions are not retroactive, and as such shall only apply to proceedings which are brought on or after the 21st July 2022. In instances where cross-examination is required, the court may appoint a qualified legal representative who shall conduct the cross-examination instead of the prohibited party. Qualified legal representatives can include barristers, solicitors and CILEX practitioners.
It is widely acknowledged that cross-examination by a perpetrator can potentially diminish the quality of the evidence that a victim gives in court. Furthermore, it can also be a method of perpetuating forms of abuse against a victim, which in turn can cause them further trauma and distress. It is anticipated that the implementation of these measures shall help to protect vulnerable victims whilst they give evidence in court whilst also ensuring that their Article 6 rights are not compromised.