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Puzzle time!

Oh dear! Sir James Munby has had ever such a clever idea. His friend Frances Gibb has written a story about it for the newspaper. But they have both forgotten something very important. Can you help them find it?

Family courts chief calls for ban on abusers cross-examining victims

Abusers should be banned from cross-examining victims of domestic violence as a “priority”, says England’s most senior family judge.

Sir James Munby is pressing ministers to legislate to stop such cross-examinations, which still happen despite efforts by senior judges to prevent them.

The president of the family division, who raised the issue in 2014 amid concerns over the stress that such questioning puts on victims, is dismayed at the lack of action. He argues that the family justice system “lags woefully behind the criminal justice system” where cross-examination of an alleged victim by the defendant is not allowed by law.

In a statement today Sir James said that he would welcome a ban, adding: “Reform is required as a matter of priority.”

He added: “But the judiciary cannot provide this because it requires primary legislation and would involve public expenditure. It is therefore a matter for ministers.”

Senior judges are in talks with Women’s Aid, a charity that helps victims of domestic violence, to try to have the practice banned.

A spokesman for the judiciary added that Sir James, who is president of the family division of the High Court, was “disappointed by how slow the response to these issues has been and welcomes the continuing efforts by Women’s Aid to bring these important matters to wider public attention.”

Judges and women’s groups are discussing the workings of the existing rules, contained in a practice direction which has been reviewed by a senior family judge, Mr Justice Cobb. Cross-examination by violent partners has continued, despite the practice direction.

A survey by Women’s Aid found that a quarter of victims of domestic violence had been cross-examined by abusive partners.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, told The Guardian: “When we talk to judges about this they say that this never happens. But it is happening, that is clear, and it seems fairly difficult to get this across.”

Concerns about cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses were raised by Sir James more than two years ago, prompting the setting up of a working party to deal with what was described as a “pressing need”.

The working party reported in 2014, condemning procedures for taking evidence from alleged victims as inadequate and pointing out that one High Court judge, Mr Justice Wood, had drawn attention to the issue as long ago as 2006.

Research by an all-party parliamentary group on domestic violence found that 55 per cent of women had no access to special measures in family courts, where 70 per cent of separation and child contact cases involve some form of domestic violence.

The group’s report, in April, called for an end to abusers cross-examining victims and was backed by two MPs, Jess Phillips and Maria Miller, who launched a joint call for action. The all-party group said it had launched its inquiry after becoming increasingly concerned concerned about the safety of women and child survivors of domestic abuse within the family courts.

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34 comments to Puzzle time!

  • Mr Ed

    Well this is sensible, there shouldn’t be any cross-examination in these situations at all, as that might test the evidence and interfere with the finding of guilt (or rather blame and liability) made before it was even presumed.

  • Agammamon

    “lags woefully behind the criminal justice system” where cross-examination of an alleged victim by the defendant is not allowed by law.

    Wait, what?!

  • llamas

    Yeah, me too, wait, what? Since when is a defendant in an assault case not permitted to cross-examine his accuser?

    llater,

    llamas

  • Alsadius

    I assume this means that they get to have a lawyer do it in criminal cases, but what about defendants fighting their case pro se?

    (Also, I take it that the option to reply to comments has been eliminated again?)

  • Mr Ed

    Alsadius is correct, XE by your brief in a criminal case is still permitted. The wall is slowly being chipped away at though.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think you are foolishly going with that whole “presumption of innocence” thing. But really, Natalie, surely you know that if the police arrest someone he is pretty much sure to be guilty. After all our public officials never make mistakes, never abuse power, and accusers are always saintly and without ulterior motives.

    And if a man is accused of child abuse we should surely throw him to the wolves anyway, irrespective of his innocence. After all, that would surely send just the sort of message don’t you think?

    I recently watched a documentary on Aaron Schwartz. It once again made me sick to my stomach.

  • Graham Asher

    Obviously what is needed is a system of independent tribunals, outside and above the normal court system, to decide who is an abuser. These tribunals would have the power to summon anyone necessary, under penalty of indefinite imprisonment, and naturally, to streamline the process, no person summoned would be allowed legal representation. It goes without saying that all the cumbersome and archaic mechanisms of rules of evidence and balance of probabilities need not apply.

  • staghounds

    Have they forgotten that judges run their courtrooms, and that cross examination that becomes irrelevant or abusive may be stopped by his command when the judge wants it to and punished by his contempt powers?

    Are the Queen’s courts so afraid of worthless, wife beating trash?

  • CaptDMO

    Oh, we’ve solved this in the US.
    You see, in cases where a male college student is accused of…well, anything, the alleged crime is handled with “special” rules , by “expert” campus authorities, as per Title IX, managed by The Dept. of “Education”, and legislated by a letter famously known as “Dear Colleague…” that imperiled gub’mint cash to those who would not play along.
    If a case DOES manage to get to an actual criminal court, there are “special” rape protection clause rules where an accusers
    previous behavior can NOT be introduced.
    Not sure if that includes a “history” of serial false rape accusations, that RARELY have consequence.

  • Eric Tavenner

    That would simplify things and reduce costs.
    No more need for trials, just accuse and take the accused to the gibbet. You could fire all the judges and other court personell and make them get honest work.

  • ed in texas

    “When we talk to judges about this they say that this never happens. But it is happening, that is clear, and it seems fairly difficult to get this across.”

    Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

  • Fred Z

    Rope. Tar. Feathers. Lamp-post.

    Pick any two.

  • Vinegar Joe

    Once upon a time, I studied under Paul Blackstock……he translated into English a book containing two short stories by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The book (pub 1963) was entitled “We Never Make Mistakes” and the title came from the story “An Incident at Krechetovka Station”…..

    One day a security investigator from the junction
    command arrived on some business.
    Zotov asked him, casually, “Do you remember a certain
    Tveritinov? I had him detained sometime last autumn.”
    “Why do you ask?” the investigator knitted his brows,
    signifcantly.
    “Just asking . . . I was interested . . . in the outcome.”
    “We’ll take care of your Tveritinov. We never make
    mistakes.”
    But afterward, for the rest of his life, Zotov could never
    forget that man . . .

    https://www.amazon.com/We-Never-Make-Mistakes-Novels/dp/039331474X

  • Richard Thomas

    Eric, fire the judges? No. You are looking at it the wrong way. You take the judges, give them guns (called lawgivers) and make them ride motorcycles (called lawmasters) and have them dispense justice directly in the streets.

  • Umbriel

    Suggestions of these sort by an attorney should be grounds for immediate disbarment. There should be no defense for this, for reasons of poetic justice.

  • bobby b

    In the U.S., our Sixth Amendment to our Constitution guarantees that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” The Sixth also contains several other protections for a criminal defendant.

    Our progressive bureaucrats have found their way around this, to a great degree, by taking many judicial decisions outside of the criminal system. Thus, we have kangaroo sexual-assault courts in our education system that can deprive you of your place at school (and your reputation) with none of the Sixth Amendment protections, our family courts (that also operate in the civil realm instead of criminal) can make property and custody decisions with the same lack of regard, we can have our property stolen by the police through seizure with little recourse . . . It’s a long list.

    So long as the state isn’t looking to deprive us of our liberty – if they’re not looking to imprison us – they can choose to run us through civil court rather than criminal court. And the constitutional guarantees that protect us from unfair state action are generally limited to criminal proceedings.

    I don’t know where GB’s similar procedural protections arise, but I’d guess that the court proceedings the article speaks of are considered to be civil court proceedings, not criminal, and that the “defendant” thus has no established right to confront witnesses.

  • Rob

    So the law is now being decided by judges “talking to” women’s political pressure groups?

    Parliament, anyone?

  • Rob

    And the idea that the Family Courts are biased against women – dear oh dear.

    Just because Progressives are winning a battle doesn’t mean they don’t have to massacre the captives while crying that they are losing.

  • Alisa

    Just because Progressives are winning a battle doesn’t mean they don’t have to massacre the captives while crying that they are losing.

    Indeed.

  • John B

    Why not do away with trials altogether?

  • the other rob

    You take the judges, give them guns (called lawgivers) and make them ride motorcycles (called lawmasters) and have them dispense justice directly in the streets.

    Which is all very well, up until the day that four of them get together, observe that all crimes are committed by the living and conclude that therefore life itself must be a crime.

  • Edmund Burke

    Will the same rules apply where the accused is female?

  • Deep Lurker

    So long as the state isn’t looking to deprive us of our liberty – if they’re not looking to imprison us

    The state also has an end-run if it does want to throw us into prison: Impose record-keeping and reporting requirements. That way, mere factual innocence of the underlying crime they supposedly want to punish no longer is a defense. You have to demonstrate, by record-keeping and reporting, that you are not guilty, with failure to properly dot the i’s and cross the t’s being a criminal offense that can send you to prison.

    In the US, it’s not enough to be a non-felon to buy a gun – you have to file paperwork and submit to a background check to prove that you’re not a felon. It’s not enough that the woman you took a cheesecake photo of is a big-breasted 30-something, you have to have paperwork to prove that she’s over 18. It’s not enough to be a US citizen, you have to show documents to prove that you’re a citizen to be allowed to work. It’s not enough to make wooden toys free of lead paint, you have to jump through hoops and prove that your toys are lead-free before you’re allowed to sell them. And so on and so forth, ad nauseum.

  • Flubber

    A lot of 2000AD nerds on this thread!

  • Paul Marks

    It must be said that my old enemy Dr Sean Gabb is very good on this – and I am not being sarcastic, he is very good on this.

    As an interested layman he knows something about the principles of the Common Law – which this judge (indeed judges and other such in general now) do not.

    It is clear that this judge (a typical example of his degenerate kind) would not recognise the principles of Natural Justice if he fell over them.

    As for the “Family Courts” they are an abomination and should, of course, be abolished – but (as the post makes clear) the Common Law courts have become themselves become degenerate – full of blatantly unjust practices.

  • Laird

    Another artifact of having a non-written (i.e., pretend) constitution.

    In the US, when our government decides a constitutional protection is too burdensome it has to jump through a lot of hoops and convince some judge to torture the clear language until it yields up the desired answer. You guys just have the judges talk to activist pressure groups or, if you’re feeling really feisty, pass a statute which essentially says that it was never really a “right” in the first place. You are more efficient at gutting rights than we are, I will grant you that.

  • I think you are selling the USA short, Laird. Compared to the extent and scope of asset forfeiture on your side of the puddle, the UK are complete rank amateurs when it comes to gutting rights 😆

  • Sean Ohsee

    The real world is messy. Adults learn to deal with it. Children throw tantrums. This is a tantrum.

  • RRS

    The working party reported in 2014, condemning procedures for taking evidence from alleged victims as inadequate and pointing out that one High Court judge, Mr Justice Wood, had drawn attention to the issue as long ago as 2006.

  • But they have both forgotten something very important.

    Evidence?

  • Thailover

    I’ve also noticed that women’s protection groups should be behind the effort to protect the victim from feeling “uncomfortable” while she’s putting him in prison.

    What…wait…the victim is sometimes a man?
    Oh well…nevermind.

  • Thailover

    Let’s not forget what Hillary said about this. Women have the RIGHT to be believed when making charges of sexual assault against a man, unless it’s her husband, then the whore should be utterly destroyed of course.

    Gee, I can’t imagine why this geriatric cow isn’t our president.

  • NickM

    Evidence?

    Who needs that!

    In 1995 I vaguely knew a lad who was charged with rape and was held on remand for six weeks.

    His crime? He was being stalked by a mentally unstable woman. And he finally told that no he didn’t want to have sex with her. The prosecution – at trial – presented no evidence. Nothing. Not even any evidence that sexual intercourse consensual or otherwise had taken place. Or indeed even that they were ever alone together.

    It was thrown out but he lost those six weeks to Hell and had to re-do his entire final year at med school. She was sectioned.

    A couple of years later I was told in no uncertain terms (by a lesbian) that women never, ever lie about rape.

  • Mr Ed

    The UK’s Justice Secretary (and Lord Chancellor) has, per the BBC, asked her officials for urgent advice on how to close this ‘loophole’ in the family courts. Funny how a principle as old as the hills could be called a ‘loophole’.