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Speech by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division: Because it is the right thing to do

You may remember that it was some four years ago that, in June 2014, I set up the Children and Vulnerable Witnesses Working Group (CVWWG), chaired by Hayden J and Russell J, to examine the related issues of how the family justice system accommodates the needs of children attending court to give evidence or to visit the judge, and the needs of vulnerable witnesses and parties.

As part of the latter piece of work, I asked the CVWWG to address the fact, condemned by a judge of the Family Division as long ago as 2006, that in the family justice system we are obliged to tolerate what in the Crown Court would be forbidden: the cross-examination of an alleged victim by an alleged perpetrator. This can sometimes amount, and on occasions quite deliberately, to a continuation of the abuse, as the court has to stand by, effectively powerless, while the abuse continues in court and, indeed, as part of the court process. I have repeatedly emphasised that in these matters the family justice system lags woefully, indeed, shamefully, behind the criminal justice system.

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