The Home Affairs Committee has urged the government to widen its forthcoming bill on domestic abuse.
Evidence from Queen Mary University of London has been used in the UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee report which calls for stronger action on domestic violence.
Earlier this year a joint report by Queen Mary and Women’s Aid highlighted the lack of protections faced by survivors of domestic abuse. It uncovered systematic gender discrimination and a culture in the family courts that silences women by failing to uphold the human rights of survivors.
Based on evidence from Shazia Choudhry, Professor of Law at Queen Mary, the Home Affairs Committee reportrecommends that all judges, magistrates and professionals involved in child contact cases in the family court receive specialist training on domestic abuse and coercive control.
The report also highlights concerns about the impact that court proceedings have on children. The Committee found that navigating the justice system is as distressing for some victims as the abusive behaviour which they are seeking to escape.
The Committee recommends that the Government’s forthcoming bill should be a Violence Against Women and Domestic Abuse Bill to ensure that it can both support all victims of domestic abuse and also reflect underlying gender inequality and its links to wider aspects of violence against women and girls.
The Queen Mary report highlights that children may be placed in danger because of a lack of coherence between different parts of the justice system. Three in five survivors reported that there were no special measures in family courts such as separate waiting rooms meaning that victims often came face to face with alleged perpetrators.
Citing findings from the Queen Mary report, the Home Affairs Committee also call for the cross-examination of victims by perpetrators of domestic abuse to be prohibited in family courts.
Professor Shazia Choudhry said: “I am delighted to see the Home Affairs Committee take on board the findings from my recent joint research with Women’s Aid on domestic abuse, human rights and child contact and my evidence submission to the Committee.
“It is essential that the Domestic Abuse Bill extends into the family courts and tackles these urgent issues in order to uphold the human rights of victims of domestic abuse in all spheres,” she added.
Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Rt. Hon. Yvette Cooper MP commented: “Domestic abuse is one of the most dangerous and the most common crimes there is. Millions of people are affected each year, and two women a week die at the hands of a partner or ex. The Government is rightly proposing new legislation and a new strategy, but our inquiry found much stronger action is needed across the board.
“Shockingly many refuges are turning away 60 per cent of their referrals due to lack of space. We urgently need more refuge places – provision should be a requirement on local authorities, backed by national ring fenced funding,” she added.