It follows sustained criticism of the family law system from victims rights advocates and the Federal Opposition, arguing victims are not coming forward out of fear of facing their attackers in court.
Attorney-General George Brandis released draft amendments to the Family Law Act today that would ban alleged attackers charged with violent offences, who are representing themselves in court, from cross-examining their victims.
“The court will also have discretion to disallow direct cross-examination in other matters where there are allegations of family violence,” Senator Brandis said.
“To maintain procedural fairness, the court will be able to appoint a person to act as an intermediary to ask questions in cross-examination on behalf of a party.”
The Opposition argues the changes do not go far enough in protecting victims.
“Instead of asking the questions themselves, [alleged attackers] will just slip a note to someone else who would then ask the questions on their behalf,” said Terri Butler, the Opposition’s spokesman for preventing family violence.
“This is a far cry from requiring abusers to be legally represented so that a person with ethical obligations, duties as an officer of the court, and requirements to act professionally, stands between the abuser and the victim.
“The Government has also apparently failed to make available information as to how these court-appointed, lay-person questioners will be paid, if at all.”
Ms Butler said the Coalition should match Labor’s promise to properly fund legal aid.
Last year, family violence groups used a meeting of federal, state and territory leaders to lobby for the change, arguing it was not only traumatising for victims but also affected the credibility and accuracy of their evidence.
Public consultation on the plan is open until late August.
Read More: ABC News
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