Accused in domestic abuse cases may face cross-examination ban

Husbands and partners ­facing domestic abuse charges could be banned from cross-examining their alleged victims themselves in court as part of a hardline drive to tackle the issue in Scotland, it has emerged.

Dr Marsha Scott of Scottish Womens Aid backs the change. Picture: Contributed

The move mirrors the ban which has been imposed on those in the dock in rape cases, and is part of a wider overhaul of the justice system being undertaken ahead of the introduction of new legislation to tackle domestic abuse.

A series of measures unveiled by ministers will also see the accused banned from taking pre-trial court statements from their partners, and mandatory non-harassment orders being considered when they are convicted.

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Victims in domestic abuse cases – who are mainly women – are also to be given more leeway in explaining to courts why they might have stayed in an abusive relationship, with the introduction of expert witnesses now being allowed to assist this.

The move has been welcomed by support groups who have said women in these cases can suffer “traumatic” experiences in court.

Police in Scotland receive about 60,000 domestic abuse calls a year and Nicola Sturgeon has said her government is determined to tackle the issue. Proposals for a specific law on domestic abuse were at the heart of her Programme for Government which was set out last week.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson set out the latest proposals in response to calls from support groups. He said yesterday: “The way in which the justice system handles domestic abuse cases needs to be modernised.”

Dr Marsha Scott of Scottish Women’s Aid said: “If you have a woman who has experienced abuse, intimidation and fear in a relationship to the point where it has ended up in court, allowing her to then be examined by her abuser is just unthinkable.

“That seems like an obvious step and it was one of the things raised by our group at consultation.”