The Domestic abuse commissioner and victim’s commissioner have revealed that next spring, a monitoring mechanism to improve the family court’s response to domestic abuse will be piloted.
The monitoring mechanism is one of the many recommendations that were made last year by a panel of experts tasked to review how the family court deal with risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases involving domestic abuse and other serious offences.
The recommendation by the panel was that a national monitoring team should be established within the office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to maintain that oversight of and report regularly on the family courts’ performance in protecting children and victims from domestic abuse and other risks of harm in private law children’s proceedings.
On the 29 th of November 2021, the commissioners published a report detailing the vision and aims of the new mechanism.
The report shows that the findings from the mechanism will help to ensure the family justice system has a culture of safety and protection from harm, where: children’s needs and the impact of domestic abuse survivors feel listened to and respected.
The aims include increasing transparency and accountability within the family court on how domestic abuse allegations are treated during the court process.
Next spring, the pilot of these will begin and it is comprised in two parts. A scoping exercise will be directed to assess what data can be currently collected from several different bodies such as HM Courts & Tribunals Service, Cafcass, Ministry of Justice and Legal Aid Agency. Furthermore, there will be a mixed methods monitoring the pilot across three court areas, culminating in a report after one year to include the design of a framework for longer-term monitoring nationally.
The priority monitoring areas include legal representation, pathways into court and how proceedings are conducted.
Nicole Jacobs, the UK Domestic Abuse Commissioners has said that “far too often survivors and their children have been let down and retraumatised through the process and it is one of my utmost priorities to change this”. This a quote taken from the website, upon release of ‘improving the family court response to domestic abuse’. This is a 29-page report on the work that she has done to date on establishing a mechanism that will monitor the way allegations of domestic abuse are dealt with by the family courts, as it was recommended in the Harm Report of June 2020. The Commissioner’s Office consulted a lot on the idea before putting these plans forward.
The intention of this new monitoring mechanism is you help and ensure that the family justice system has a culture of safety and protection from harm, where:
– Children’s needs and the impact of domestic abuse are central consideration
– Survivors feel able to raise domestic abuse
– Children and survivors of domestic abuse feel listened to and respected.
This new monitoring mechanism aims to:
– Increase understanding, transparency and accountability within the family courts on how: allegation of domestic abuse, and children and survivors, are
treated and the longer-term impact on survivors and children.
– Lead to more consistent and effective application of the key relevant Practice Direction and new Domestic Abuse Act measures, within each court area, and across all court areas.
– Ensure children and survivors of domestic abuse can feedback on the experience that they had within the process so that the feedback is acted
– Ensure that the particular barriers faced by black and minority ethnic, deaf and disabled and LGBTQ+ survivors are better understood and addressed
and achieve a better understanding of the different barriers faced by male and female survivors.
Moreover, as mentioned above this will be split into two parts, first a scoping exercise to collect all the data and then a pilot phase for this data to be implemented. This pilot phase is said to begin in spring of 2022.
Many have said that these proposals are ambitious and will need to be carefully tested, therefore we won’t be noticing any massive changes any time soon, although we hope that practice in general is improving since the publication of the Harm Report and that the message that it sent was taken aboard.
This proposal of monitoring and reporting mechanism is not about regulation or inspection and it does not mean that anyone extra will be turning up to check on a court hearing or will be able to help with individual complaints. What this proposal is actually proposing is that information is made available on how courts are actually addressing the issues that came up in the Harm Report, and that we see constantly being raised by aggrieved parties and concerned observers in research and in the media. The benefits to families through review and improved practice may therefore be in the longer term, but there should be benefits in the near future through the awareness of these new systems of scrutiny being in place.
Upon consultation the priority areas have been identified as:
– Access to legal representation, use of special measures (participation directions), what happened with cross examination; access to support from
advocates, interpreters and more.
– Pathways to court: who is applying and what for and whether mediation was attempted and if so, what happened and where it led?
– The conduct of proceedings. A detailed list looking at: the nature of allegations, the type of evidence, whether there was a fact-finding hearing
held and many more.
– Final orders: together with any outstanding concerns; return to court and others
– Experiences of parties and children: this is where people going to court may notice the mechanism operation because their feedback before and after
proceedings will be sought.
If you are looking to obtain a more information on family matters, contact Stalwart Solicitors. We provide 30 minutes free legal advice and can assist you in all aspects of your divorce and matrimonial financial matters. See www.stalwartsolicitors.com and email@example.com.