Self-represented litigants have had the ability, in certain circumstances, to cross-examine their victims during family law matters.
But the Federal Government will today introduce legislation scrapping the practice, citing significant community concern and a desire to avoid further trauma of victims.
“In the criminal jurisdiction, many years ago, the practice was ended where a self-represented litigant would be able to cross-examine their victim in a sexual violence or in a rape matter,” Attorney-General Christian Porter told ABC News Breakfast.
“That situation, unfortunately, persists in a very small number of incidences in the Family Court.
“For those very small number of cases where there are clear allegations or indeed convictions of violence, the perpetrator of the violence should not be able to cross-examine the victim of the violence.”
Courts would also have the discretion to stop the direct cross-examination where domestic violence was alleged, and would be required to put in place extra protections for alleged victims — including screens or video links in court rooms — where questioning was allowed to occur.
Where questioning is allowed, it would have to be done by a lawyer, including legal aid lawyers where an alleged abuser does not have their own representation.
“In those circumstances, cross-examination can and should probably still happen, but it will have to be conducted by an independent counsel,” Mr Porter said.