Of all the places that may seem safe for our children but aren’t, you’d never expect Family Courts to be on that list. However, this is exactly what the Ministry and Justice are currently looking into. With the amount of children involved in public law cases jumping from 20,000 in 2008 to 36,000 in the past year, it’s essential that this number is looked at – in order to reduce these figures, but also to keep children and vulnerable young adults physically and mentally safe during legal proceedings.
What is currently happening?
When it comes to questioning children on the stand, there is room for improvement within legal proceedings. This is specifically seen in domestic abuse cases where the children are made to stand trial alongside their abuser and publicly speak against them. Not only can they be asked to recount traumatising memories, but their abuser can actually bear witness to their attorney, effectively cross-examining them. Even in the cases when children don’t have to stand in court themselves and speak, some, who are of a significant age, will be supporting a family member.
The fact that children and vulnerable adults have to physically face defendants is a current problem within the system – ideally, they should not be put in this position. With technological advances, there are ways in which statements and questioning can happen where the survivors and their abusers will not have to be within even metres of each other.
What the MoJ is looking to change.
To examine this, the Ministry of Justice has set up a panel look over the processes of child arrangement cases where domestic abuse is included. It’s a legal review that will analyse the experiences and implications that these processes and events have on a child’s mental wellbeing.
The banning of direct cross-examinations has already been highlighted and funding has been given to organisations to help employ specially trained staff. This will benefit not just the children, but the families also – during the court process itself and beyond this time after the court case has closed.
Whilst the courts are working to improve cases where domestic abuses are involved, there are also other areas of Family Law that children are often, if not completely, part of. For example, in the cases of child fostering or parents in child custody battles, the proceedings can be equally traumatic. It’s always going to be difficult to completely shelter children or young adults from any kind of harm when other adults involved do not always consider it a priority.
Moving forward, the courts will always aim to make processes and proceedings as safe as possible for those more vulnerable. There are many different types of support systems online, over the phone, or even within your own community that will be open to helping you and your children through any difficult time. Don’t let you or your child suffer in silence.
If you or a family member are in need to representation or advice regarding Family Law, Personal Injuries or Serious Injuries. Contact our team at Lysander Law.