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Govt stopping abusers questioning in court

AAP logoAAP 22/11/2016 Katina Curtis

Judges and government are working to stop domestic violence victims suffering further trauma in court during cross-examinations.

Labor has vowed to pursue reforms to the Family Court that would prevent victims facing hostile court questioning by their alleged perpetrators.

"This is trial by ordeal," leader Bill Shorten told a White Ribbon breakfast in Parliament House on Wednesday.

"Those who go through the criminal and the family law system feel demoralised, dehumanised and their hope is further drained out of them."

The cross-examination of victims by unrepresented perpetrators, not a lawyer, amounted to "reinjury".

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says his government is already working with stakeholders, especially Family Court judges and magistrates, to support vulnerable witnesses.

It is setting up integrated duty lawyer and domestic violence support services in family law courts, including helping victims use other ways of giving evidence, such as via video link.

The government has also commissioned a "bench book" guiding judges dealing with domestic violence cases in how best to minimise secondary abuse through court processes.

"Judges and judicial officers always have a discretion in this area and we are encouraging them to use this very actively to ensure that these distressing circumstances don't occur," Mr Turnbull told parliament.

"We are very well aware of the trauma that victims undertake or suffer if they are cross-examined by a perpetrator and we have put in place measures to ensure that that does not occur where it would create that type of trauma."

The prime minister announced on Wednesday an eSafety commissioner with newly expanded responsibilities would address revenge porn.

"To every victim of domestic violence, your families and friends, to those who have been frightened and hurt, who are scarred today or scarred by what has happened in the past, Australia stands with you," he told the White Ribbon breakfast.

"We can't be satisfied while even one person is in danger."

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