The head of Family and Children Law at one of the region’s largest law firms said today that he was delighted to hear the Government’s announcement of an overhaul of systems in the family courts which aims to give greater protection to domestic abuse survivors and their children.
Nathan Wright, a partner with GHP Legal which has offices in Wrexham, Oswestry, Llangollen and Chirk, said the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill announced this week was long overdue and never more necessary than at the current time, with COVID19 lockdown adding to the misery and fear of an increased number of domestic abuse victims.
“Family lawyers like myself have been campaigning for more protection for the vulnerable victims of family abuse, and their children, for years”, he says, “and the COVID lockdown has brought a surge in domestic violence, with social distancing providing the perpetrators with the perfect excuse to act behind closed doors, out of public sight.
“At least the reforms will see those perpetrators who are brought to justice forced to access the courts through a different entrance to their victim and to use a different waiting room. Too often I have sat in waiting rooms with domestic abuse clients who are absolutely terrified of their attacker who could be sitting just a few seats away from them. It is very intimidating for them.”
Key features of the reform are that more victims will receive special protections in court and judges will have stronger powers to prevent abusers repeatedly dragging a victim back to court. In addition, a new investigative court process is being trialled to reduce conflict and provide more consistent support for victims, with the emphasis on identifying the root cause of an issue without the additional trauma of victims having to be in court at the same time as their abusive ex-partner.
“Domestic abuse victims also need to be made aware,” says Nathan Wright, “that despite conducting interviews mainly by telephone or video link during the coronavirus lockdown, as family solicitors we are still able to arrange emergency appointments and obtain emergency injunctions to protect them within just a few hours. Orders can be obtained without any notice to the perpetrators of the abuse and we can also advise on safe accommodation for them. Victims simply need to call to us”