Family Courts ‘used to perpetrate abuse’ against women

Family Law|September 17th 2016

The Family Courts are currently being used by violent men to further abuse women, MPs have claimed.

Research from domestic violence victim support charity Women’s Aid has revealed that between 2005 and 2015 as many as 19 children have been killed by fathers with a history of violence. In each case, the fathers had been allowed to see their children through contact arrangements.

During a Parliamentary debate, MPs demanded that Justice Secretary Liz Truss do more to tackle the attitudes of some family judges who appear to be more concerned about the rights of abusive fathers than the safety of their families.

Labour MP Peter Kyle claimed “family courts are being used to perpetrate abuse against extremely vulnerable women”. He cited the case of one his constituents in Hove who had been “cross-examined by her former partner on three separate occasions, the man who beat her, broke her bones and battered her unconscious”.

The “abuse and brutalisation of women” in the legal system had to end, he added, as a change in the way the family courts operates was “desperately needed”.

His Labour colleague Angela Smith, the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said that “for the sake of vulnerable women, we need the government to send out a clear message by agreeing to act”. She also claimed the assumption some in the family courts have that abusive husbands could still make good fathers had to end.

Like Kyle, she also cited a tragic case from her constituency. She said that a father of two had been granted contact with his two sons despite the fact that he had a history of domestic violence. During a visit to his home in 2014, the children were both killed as a result of the 16 fires the father lit in the house. The father perished in the fire and within five days, both his sons had also died.

Changes to the family courts were “critical if we are to make sure this never happens again” Smith declared.

Photo by robertsharp via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

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  1. Nick Langford says:

    This was not a “debate” since all participants were relying indiscriminately on the Women’s Aid research. This tends to happen every time MPs “debate” DV.
    The older WA report, 29 child Homicides, was shown by Lord Justice Wall to be inaccurate and misleading: only five of the cases involved court-ordered contact, and in those the orders were made with consent. There is no evidence that the outcomes could have been predicted and thus no evidence the judges were in any way at fault.
    Indeed, is there any evidence at all for the WA claim that “some family judges appear to be more concerned about the rights of abusive fathers”? Or that ““family courts are being used to perpetrate abuse against extremely vulnerable women”? What is the basis for these claims? Change the genders and these claims sound just like those made by fathers’ groups.
    This isn’t debate, it isn’t helpful, it won’t help children and it won’t help genuine victims of DV. What it could do, is lead to policy change which will be profoundly damaging to children and inimical to fathers. If WA get the outcome they have been demanding for decades: a presumption of no contact unless it can be proved to be safe, it could well backfire, with fathers refusing to engage at all with a system in which they know they will lose. At least now they know they have a reasonable chance.
    This “feminisation of justice” – to paraphrase a recent Daily Mail headline – is not merely sexist, it is undermining the rule of law, and overturning the presumption of innocence. It is desperately depressing that MPs are meekly going along with it.

  2. Vincent McGovern says:

    How nice to see the independent and gender neutral Women’s Aid were selected. And of course there is always the delusional outdated male chauvinist who wants to be a hero for all vulnerable lasses. No mention of course of the mother who killed her three children while housed by a Women’s Aid refuge. Or all the fathers who commit suicide because of promotion of false allegations which denies them a relationship with their children.

    Until the sick gender politics are removed from Family Courts there will never be appropriate outcomes for children. The abuse of some women which is in itself sick, is then hijacked and used as a weapon against half of these children’s parents. What about all the fathers who are not legally represented being forced to undergo cross examination from fraudulently obtained legal aid representation where lies and exaggerations are dominant. If ever the day arrives when discussion of this business talks about parents rather than ‘weak female abusive male,’ then we will have a mature society able to make mature decisions.

  3. Elena says:

    I would completely agree with this article. It is true the Family Courts (not only the UK) are too concerned about Father’s rights (and Mother’s Rights) or “shared care” but not enough on children’s rights. A parent should not have “rights” because they are parents, particularly when they are abusive. In fact, often, it is through the children that the abusive parent will abuse the main carer.

    While a divorce can take the worst in some people, divorcing an abusive partner is like the Cold War where the abuser plays a game of brinkmanship. And then to hear that “both parents must just get along for the sake of the children or be reasonable” are like nails on a chalkboard to any parent who divorced an abusive and narcissist partner. The perpetrators are “charming” and would claim to love their children and demand that their rights are considered however, their actions never match their words and on many times (as in this article), they are downright dangerous.

    The Family Court System needs a complete “refurbishment” and a good insight into psychology and personality disorders and it is not about “two immature parents who are not capable of putting their children first” but about protecting the children from all types of abuse.

    • Stitchedup says:

      complete B.S. , abuse and narcissism are very loosely, and imho, ill defined terms used as “catch all” clauses. What is a man meant to do?? behave like a complete and utter lunatic/thug in public?? When is this mad feminist crap going to stop???

  4. Andrew says:

    Apart from anything else:
    1. I know of no court where there are enough private consultation rooms. If they are all in use you cannot turf other litigants and their counsel out to make way for a d.v. complainant.
    2. You cannot sensibly arrange for them to arrive at different times. Nobody every knows exactly when a hearing will start. And they have to approach the building through the same streets.
    3. Nor can you make the alleged abuser remain in the building after his business is finished; that would be false imprisonment. Of course if the complainant chooses to hang around she can.
    4. Yes, they will be in the same small courtroom. That’s what happens in litigation. No, we cannot always arrange videolinking. If she has brought the proceedings she cannot complain that he comes to court and wants to be take part. If he has applied e.g. for contact he is entitled to have his application heard without waiting for a video suite to be available.
    5. Above all, if you don’t give him legal aid he MUST be allowed to cross-examine her, and must indeed be given the same leeway other litigants in person get. T
    The only one of these obvious points made by any of the MPs who spoke was the last, by a Member who pointed out that in the criminal courts in cases of d.v. and rape if the defendant is not represented the court appoints a lawyer to cross-examine and urged the same procedure in civil and family courts. There may be some merit in that, but of course the grant of legal aid to one party but not the other is a gross breach of Article 6 and cannot be remedied with that sort of sticking plaster.

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