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Legislation protecting victims of family violence from cross-examination passes
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Legislation protecting victims of family violence from cross-examination passes

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Direct cross-examination in family law matters where violence has occurred is set to be banned in certain circumstances, following the passage of new legislation.

The Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Act 2018 will protect victims of family violence by banning direct cross-examination in certain circumstances, federal Attorney-General Christian Porter said in a statement, and will instead require that cross-examination be conducted by a legal representative.

“The reforms, and associated ongoing funding, will provide better protection for victims of family violence and, most importantly, perpetrators will never be able to cross-examine their victims in the future,” Mr Porter said.

“Direct cross-examination by an alleged perpetrator can expose victims of family violence to re traumatisation and can affect their ability to give evidence. The new Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties Scheme will be available to all parties who are subject to the ban on direct cross examination – the usual legal aid means and merits tests will not apply.”

“The government has worked closely with National Legal Aid on the reforms and to accurately cost the scheme and has followed information and advice from National Legal Aid to ensure that the scheme is well designed and fully funded,” Mr Porter continued.

“These new arrangements will apply in 2019, after the courts have had an opportunity to put necessary procedural mechanisms in place. Fortunately, the current incidence of direct cross-examination of victims of family violence is rare,” he said.

“Recent research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that there were 173 final hearings in the federal family law courts over two years between 2015 and 2017, involving allegations of family violence where one or both parties were self-represented.”

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