Welsh Women’s Aid response to family justice system review announced by Westminster

The Ministry of Justice yesterday announced a three month review into the family justice system response to domestic abuse, rape, child abuse and other violent crime.

Welsh Women’s Aid welcomes this inquiry but calls on the Panel to make sure that the experiences of survivors of domestic abuse and their children, using family courts in Wales, are central to the review.

Eleri Butler, CEO of Welsh Women’s Aid said:

“A review into how the family courts operate when faced with families impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence is long overdue. At Welsh Women’s Aid we’ve been calling for a radical overhaul of the family court system to address the decades of documented dangerous practice by that have failed children and their mothers over the years, which in many cases has resulted in children and women being killed.

“Survivors of abuse deserve a family justice system response to domestic and sexual abuse that maximises their safety and puts their voices and experiences central to the process. We need family court professionals to have a far better understanding of the experiences of victims of abuse and much greater regard for the voices and experiences of children. It is vital that the whole system delivers maximum protection, safety and support for women and children experiencing domestic and sexual abuse, whilst preventing their abusers from using the system to further coerce and re-traumatise victims of abuse.

“Although practice directions to the court were recently strengthened in relation to domestic abuse, there is a lack of transparent scrutiny and monitoring into how well this works for families impacted by abuse. We have also seen Government pledges to ban cross-examination of victims of domestic abuse in the family courts, by their abusers, but this has yet to be introduced.

“Our national network of domestic and sexual abuse services in Wales, and the survivors we work with, tell us repeatedly of the dangerous impact decisions made by professionals has on the safety and well-being of children and their mothers. It is vital that this review achieves real justice for survivors of abuse. It must be informed by experts in domestic and sexual abuse from Wales, and particularly by the experiences of survivors and their children in Wales who have already suffered at the hands of the family court system in Wales.”