The Court of Appeal is hearing four linked appeals in cases involving allegations of rape, domestic abuse and coercive control on 19, 20 and 21 January 2021, which is being live-streamed for the public to attend.
Dr Proudman applied for permission to appeal out of time on behalf of three of the four appellant mothers, which was granted. Dr Proudman invited the Court to join the cases as a grouped appeal. The cases were grouped together and leap-frogged from the High Court to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal is due to give general guidance about PD12J and the family court’s approach to hearing allegations involving domestic abuse.
The issues of principle set out by the court are as follows:-
1. How and when fact-finding hearings should take place.
2. The treatment in the family courts of allegations of marital or partnership rape and, in particular, whether the family court is bound to analyse factual issues within the context of the criminal law.
3. The treatment of coercive and controlling behaviour in the family courts.
4. How Practice Direction 12J is to be applied, together with Practice Direction 3AA.
5. Following a fact-finding hearing, the proper approach in private law proceedings where:-
(a) there have been findings of domestic abuse
(b) allegations of domestic abuse have been dismissed.
This is the first time the Court of Appeal has looked at these issues in 20 years. The last case before the Court of Appeal was Re: LVMH  2 WLR 339, when coercive control, at that stage, was not considered domestic abuse.
Dr Proudman is representing two appellant Mothers and she is being led by Amanda Weston QC, Garden Court Chambers.
Dr Proudman has long campaigned for the family court to change its approach to allegations of Domestic Abuse. Dr Proudman wrote in The Independent and appeared on The BBC in which she raised concerns that the court is adopting a pro-contact approach, and as a result, is failing to consider the impact of domestic abuse on the risk of harm to parents and children. The Ministry of Justice’s Harm Report in 2020 confirmed that the court is adopting a ‘contact at all costs’ approach in domestic abuse cases and there needs to be a transformation of the family court’s procedure to dealing with such cases, see more here, https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/assessing-harm-private-family-law-proceedings/results/assessing-risk-harm-children-parents-pl-childrens-cases-report.pdf Dr Proudman has worked with political figures to assist in drafting amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill.
Related barristers: Dr Charlotte Proudman