Attorney-General George Brandis has released an exposure draft of the Bill, which enables a court-appointed representative to act as an intermediary and ask questions on behalf of involved parties.
In many family law cases, the parties represent themselves in court, meaning victims are forced to come face-to-face with — and be grilled by — their alleged attackers.
Senator Brandis said the proposed changes were in response to concerns that family violence victims may experience further trauma from being directly cross-examined by their alleged perpetrators.
“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.”
In a consultation paper, the Attorney-General’s Department says being cross-examined by an alleged perpetrator “potentially exposes victims to re-traumatisation and can affect their ability to give clear evidence”.
Under the laws, a self-represented party would only be allowed to conduct direct cross-examination with the consent of the court and the victim.
Reforming the Family Law Act to protect victims has bipartisan support, but the Opposition argues the proposed changes do not go far enough in protecting victims.
Addressing a White Ribbon breakfast last year, Labor leader Bill Shorten described the existing rule of people without legal representation being able to cross-examine their partner as “trial by ordeal”.
Read More: The West Australian
By: Phoebe Wearne
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