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.