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  1. ITV Report

Domestic abusers to be banned from cross-examining their victims in court

Domestic abuse victims will no longer face cross-examination by their abusers in family courts.

The change is part of a Government package to tackle domestic abuse and the draft Bill - published on Monday - aims to support victims and their families and pursue offenders, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

The new legislation will introduce the first statutory Government definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.

Zoe Drunfield campaigned to make the courts less traumatic for domestic abuse survivors after she suffered horrific abuse from an ex-partner who is now in jail.

She told ITV News: "Even the thought of being cross -examined by an ex-abusive partner, many women don't even go to court because it could potentially be their rapist.

"They're not going to want to stand there and be subjected to that. It's all weighted for the abuser.

The legislation will also establish a domestic abuse commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues and new domestic abuse protection notices and domestic abuse protection orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders.

What the new domestic abuse legislation includes.

The legislation will prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts and provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts, the MoJ said.

The Home Office has published a report into the economic and social cost of domestic abuse, which reveals the crime cost England and Wales £66 billion in 2016-17.

According to the research, the vast majority of this cost (£47 billion) was a result of the physical and emotional harm of domestic abuse but it also includes other factors such as cost to health services (£2.3 billion), police (£1.3 billion) and victim services (£724 million).

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Throughout my political career I have worked to bring an end to domestic abuse and support survivors as they take the brave decision to leave their abuser and rebuild their lives.

Domestic abuse left Zoe Dronefield with a cracked eye socket, broken nose in two places and a stab wound to the neck. Credit: ITV News

“We know, from the harrowing experiences of victims and their families, that there is still more to do to stamp out this life-shattering crime and the Domestic Abuse Bill will lead the way in bringing about the changes we need to achieve this.”

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Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, responding to the Bill’s publication, said: “On average two women a week are killed by a current or former partner. Survivors of domestic violence have been made to wait too long for this Bill.

“If the Tories are serious about combating domestic violence, then there should be long term funding commitments to ensure sufficient resources are available for abuse survivors.”

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “That domestic abuse costs society £66 billion a year and the lives of on average two women a week in England and Wales should be a wake-up call for us all.

“Now is the time to bring it out into the spotlight and address the impact of domestic abuse properly once and for all.”

She added: “We look forward to working with the government, our member services and survivors themselves to make sure survivors have the resources and support they need, as well as address the root causes of domestic abuse so that every woman and child can live free from fear and abuse.”

Ms Ghose said the domestic abuse bill has the potential to create “a step change in the national response, to create a more effective approach to tackling domestic abuse; sustainable funding for our life-saving network of specialist support services must be at the centre of this if we are to make a real difference to survivors’ lives”.