A woman is calling for new laws to allow victims of domestic violence to withhold their addresses in court to protect them and their children.
Eve Thomas, 45, wants protection from legal sanctions for vulnerable people after she was faced with prison for refusing to reveal her address in court, for fear her ex-husband would attack her.
The mother of two, who was beaten and set on fire by her ex-husband, said the practice of victims having to disclose where they were living in court, often in front of their abusers, was a “flaw in the law.”
She had refused to give her address in court and claims she was threatened with a 14 day sentence by a court official.
She said: “It was so distressing but I was willing to go to jail to keep it a secret.
“There could be victims all over the country who have to publicly reveal in court where they are living, often in front of their abusers.
“This flaw in the law is putting victims and their children in danger.”
Ms Thomas spent 21 years with her husband before summoning the courage to escape three years ago. Eventually, she fled with her youngest daughter to a safe house in northern England.
But an official asked her to disclose her hideaway and phone number after she was hauled before a small claims court by a former friend over an unpaid debt. She offered to hand over her details in a sealed envelope if the judge could guarantee they would not be passed to the claimant – a friend of her ex who was present in court.
But she would be able to apply for the judge to release the details, so she repeatedly refused.
The case has sparked a call for Eve’s Law by campaigners, asking for abuse victims to have the right to keep their addresses secret in court. The campaign is supported by London-based human rights lawyer David Malone.
He said: “This is about striking a balance of rights. If someone can prove that they are a victim of domestic violence, they should be allowed some right to privacy.
“This would need a very small change in the law so that there is a mechanism where the address can be put into a secure database, so that someone with authority can see it. It would not be read out in court in order to protect the victim.”
Refuge, a charity, said hundreds of victims are being put at risk by being forced to reveal where they live at civil court hearings and said more should be done to mitigate rather than increase the risk to them.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “The courts regularly handle extremely sensitive cases and have a range of measures to support vulnerable court users, putting their safety and security first.”
He said in cases where a victim is also a debtor, a judge will have to demand an address to claim back money owed.
“Such action will always be at the discretion of a judge, taking account of individual circumstances,” he said.
SOURCE: The Telegraph