New law to prevent perpetrators of domestic violence intimidating their former partners in the witness box

A new law has been passed by Federal Parliament which bans a person from personally cross examining his/her ex-partner in family law cases which involve allegations of domestic violence. The ban will be imposed in certain specific circumstances.

Under the new law, which is due to come into effect on 10 September 2019, a person cannot cross-examine their former partner if:

  1. there is an allegation of family violence; and
  2. any of the following apply:
    • either party has been convicted of, or is charged with, an offence involving violence, or a threat of violence, to the other party;
    • a family violence order (other than an interim order) applies to both parties;
    • there is an injunction under the family law act for the personal protections of either party directed against the other party;

In these circumstances, then the Judge must require:

  1. that the examining party not cross examine the witness party personally;
  2. the cross examination must be conducted by a legal practitioner acting on behalf of the examining party.

This rule will apply whether the examining party is the perpetrator or the victim, and whether the witness party is the perpetrator or the victim.

The Judge may make such an order of his/her own initiative, or on the application of the witness party, the examining party or the independent children's lawyer.

The new law is designed to prevent a situation where a perpetrator of domestic violence utilises the court process to intimidate and control a former partner in the courtroom.

"Family Law - new law to stop bullies in courtrooms"

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Jane Ekin-Smyth

Jane Ekin-Smyth

Consultant
Stephen White

Stephen White

Partner