Hove MP: Government must finally act to end abuse in family courts

Hove Crown Court
Hove Crown Court

Boris Johnson said that he wanted to suspend Parliament so that he could have a Queen’s Speech, and set out the legislative agenda for the new Government.

Nobody really believed this, and now the Courts have proven what we all knew – he was trying, unlawfully, to avoid the difficult questions Parliament wants to raise on behalf of our communities, and stop our voices being heard.

And there’s another tragedy – all of the legislation which hadn’t completed its passage through Parliament will now be dropped, and we have no idea when or even if it will be reintroduced.

This is important because Bills like the Domestic Abuse Bill are very likely to be forgotten by the Government in the chaos that comes next. And once again, it’s the most vulnerable in society who will suffer the consequences.

This breaks my heart. Almost three years ago, I was granted an Urgent Question in the House of Commons, calling on the Government to ban the cross-examination of victims of domestic abuse by their abusers in the family courts.

It was something I couldn’t believe was still allowed to happen, and three years later, I still can’t. Government agreed, promising ‘immediate’ change, and I kept pushing as a succession of Ministers made promise after promise.

The Domestic Abuse Bill, introduced in July this year, offered hope that finally that change would happen, and victims, charities and campaigners worked incredibly hard to make sure that a ban on cross-examination would be included, alongside a raft of other important measures to better protect victims. The Bill had rare cross-party support and was set to become law.

But now, as a side effect of the Prime Minister’s unlawful actions to shut down Parliament, victims have been let down once again, and survivors are still suffering. The horrific family court experiences endured by abuse survivors that I’ve met will haunt me forever, and I cannot imagine the damage it’s done to those who’ve suffered it. I simply won’t let them be forgotten. Government must reintroduce this Bill immediately, and I won’t relent until it’s done.