There are times when as an MP, I have come across an injustice so profound that it’s hard to believe it still exists.
This was the case for me when I first met women who have been victims of domestic abuse, who told me of their experiences trying to get justice and protection for themselves through the family courts.
It is difficult to believe that these victims, having taken this incredibly courageous step, are then being subjected to the ordeal of cross-examination in the trial, by the person who has abused them, right under the nose of judges and the police. This understandably causes extreme distress and allows the perpetrator to continue their torment, despite the practice having been outlawed in the criminal courts.
I have been campaigning on this issue since 2016, when I first met women who had suffered this trauma, and it’s shameful that since then, nothing has changed. This is despite the Government promising me, when I raised this in the House of Commons chamber, that they would implement a ban on the practice, almost two years ago. They even got so far as making provisions in the Prisons and Courts Bill in 2017, but the disastrous General Election meant that the Bill couldn’t be passed in time.
It’s extremely frustrating that those in Government have confirmed their commitment to implement this crucial reform, numerous times, yet have still not brought the legislation forward, and put an end to the misery that thousands of victims are still being forced to suffer.
But they do now have an opportunity to do the right thing, as a Bill on Domestic Abuse is expected to be introduced to Parliament before the end of the year.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is an important opportunity to transform the way we tackle and respond to this crime and make domestic abuse everybody’s business, and I will be doing everything I can to urge the Government to reform the Family Courts system as part of this Bill. We can all see that it is completely wrong that the process of fighting for justice is compounding the trauma that victims have already experienced, and it simply must be stopped.
The Government have confirmed to me numerous times that they want to tackle this. This Bill provides an ideal opportunity, and it’s time for them to make good on their promise.
Peter Kyle is the Labour MP for Hove.