A (Domestic abuse: incorrect principles applied): Outdated attitudes to abuse

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

A quick post on perhaps the first domestic abuse case reported since the passing of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021: A (Domestic abuse: incorrect principles applied).

The case concerned an appeal by a mother against a fact-finding order dismissing her allegations of abuse against the father, made in a contact dispute.

As His Honour Judge Ahmed, hearing the appeal, said: "In this case, fundamental principles were not implemented and principles, and outdated attitudes which have no place in the Family Court, were imported."

He also said: "In this case there was a constellation of failures in the [district] judge's consideration of the domestic abuse issue, including whether certain conduct constituted abuse."

The failures included:

1. Applying criminal principles in the DJ's consideration of alleged physical abuse of the mother.

2. The DJ referring to and relying upon what he considered to be the absence of violence during the relationship, considering violence to be a more serious form of abuse than other forms of abuse.

3. Failure by the DJ to recognise and identify the mother as a vulnerable witness, and therefore failing to provide special measures to ensure that she was able to give her best evidence.

4. Allowing the father as a litigant in person and alleged abuser of the mother to cross examine her.

5. Restricting the number of allegations that the mother could present, thereby making it difficult for her to present a case properly on the basis of a pattern of behaviour over a period of time.

The mother's appeal was therefore allowed, and it was directed that the fact-finding hearing should be reheard, by a different judge.