Sometimes, finding a family mediation solicitor in Epsom will be enough to help resolve conflicts surrounding a separation, however, when abuse and domestic violence is involved, the courts will be involved in a greater capacity.
However, a group of representatives in the field of family law and domestic abuse have penned a statement calling for an inquiry into failings by family courts in dealing with the issue. The letter, addressed to justice secretary David Gauke, has been compiled by over 30 experts, from leaders of victim support groups to family law solicitors, in response to action launched by the Ministry of Justice to review how victims of domestic abuse can be protected by the courts.
The initial action was propelled by a petition by over 120 MPs, who asked the Ministry of Justice to allow greater scrutiny of family courts, according to The Guardian, in regards to cases involving domestic abuse. This includes allowing abusers to exploit their parental rights to have contact with children conceived through rape, as well as examining whether victims are being re-traumatised in courtroom settings by their abusers. With a panel of experts appointed, the Ministry of Justice is focussing particularly on how children are protected in domestic abuse cases and ‘practice direction 12j’.
Due to report back in three months, the new letter from family law and domestic abuse experts has called for the inquiry to go further, and says that 12 weeks is not sufficient to investigate these failings by the courts. It also notes that solicitors practising in family law have not been slated to be consulted as part of the inquiry.
The letter explains that practice direction 12j hearings are often not treated with due diligence, in regards to risk assessing women and children, who make up the majority of victims in cases, who may be left vulnerable. It also explains the limitations being forced onto victims in case hearings: ‘Where a fact-finding hearing is listed, the victim is increasingly being told to limit the number of allegations that can be considered by the judge, meaning that there is not a full forensic and expert assessment of the risks,’ the letter reads.
The three month inquiry is not enough, the letter echoes, to look at ‘the impact of coercive control, emotional abuse, economic abuse and other forms of non-physical violence [which] are routinely overlooked.’
The original call for action was led by MP and shadow policing and crime minister Louise Haigh earlier this month, galvanising on a campaign by Sammy Woodhouse, who is a survivor of Rotherham’s child exploitation scandal. Sammy has campaigned for changes to the law surrounding parental access rights for abusers, after rapist was given rights to play a part in her son’s life.
According to the BBC, at least four children have been killed by a parent in the past five years after being granted access by the courts, while the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme called attention to the issue by talking to dozens of parents who had abusive ex-partners granted access to their children by the courts.