Statement from the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby: Cross-examination of vulnerable people

I have been raising since 2014 the pressing need to reform the way in which vulnerable people give evidence in family proceedings. I have made clear my view that the family justice system lags woefully behind the criminal justice system.

I have expressed particular concern about the fact that alleged perpetrators are able to cross-examine their alleged victims, something that, as family judges have been pointing out for many years, would not be permitted in a criminal court. Reform is required as a matter of priority. I would welcome a bar. But the judiciary cannot provide this, because it requires primary legislation and would involve public expenditure. It is therefore a matter for ministers. I am disappointed by how slow the response to these issues has been and welcome the continuing efforts by Women’s Aid to bring these important matters to wider public attention.

I am currently considering the review of Practice Direction 12J undertaken by Mr Justice Cobb, who met with Women’s Aid during the course of his review. I expect to make decisions on the review early in the New Year.

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