Elite Judges Under Attack for Abuse Scandal

ELITE JUDGES UNDER ATTACK FOR ENABLING CHILDREN’S ABUSE

Revealed: 91% kids disclosing abuse are ignored by professionals

The Ministry of Justice stands by judges in justice scandal that has caused child murders in the UK and worldwide.

The landmark Domestic Abuse Bill is to be debated today, in the House of Lords, but fails to include enough provisions for children in family court.

The landmark Domestic Abuse Bill is passing through the House of Lords and is on it’s way to becoming law. The Bill includes provisions for domestic abuse survivors and the appointment of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, yet fails to address the heart-breaking predicament that families end up in when a domestic abuse case enters the family court. The Bill will outlaw perpetrator cross examination of victims and will ensure protections in court for victims giving evidence. This does not go far enough, if judges and professionals are not acting upon that evidence.

Kids are ordered to visit parents they fear – for example two weekends in the month. If they don’t, the judge can give that parent full custody. This leads to the Dickensian horror of a protective parent losing their child to a violent one, whilst all along trying to safeguard their child from further harm. In one case, the judge said: “It doesn’t matter what he’s done – he’s getting contact. If the mother mentions the abuse again, we may as well take the child now.”

Dr Charlotte Proudman, who is bringing a landmark appeal said: “Whilst the Domestic Abuse Bill is a positive step in the right direction, it does not go far enough in transforming how family courts address domestic abuse leaving women and children at risk of harm. All too many parents and children whom disclose abuse are ignored by the courts. Abuse is seen as ‘not an important issue’ because contact should happen at all costs. We know that children’s lives have been taken by abusive fathers after court ordered contact. The perception that parents and children might lie about abuse needs to change, professionals must listen and conduct thorough risk assessments before courts even consider ordering contact.”

The #thecourtsaid campaign surveyed 900 abused families and report that 71% of abused children are making their negative feelings known to professionals in the family court, about a parent who has harmed, but 91% of them are ignored by the professionals, who are supposedly tasked with acting in their best interests. On top of being ignored – 85% were forced or coerced into risky contact that they had expressed concerns about.

89% of families surveyed who had been in court with a parent who had harmed said that catastrophically they were put at risk of further harm by the Family Court, which families say should come with a health warning. The knock-on effects of experiencing abuse are so severe, it is an unacceptable level of risk that can affect children for the rest of their lives.

Despite witnesses, evidence and even disclosures of abuse from children, the judges are unmoved by the horrors of abuse. One judge even went as far to shout at a woman trying to protect her child: “I give contact to paedophiles and murderers, so domestic abuse isn’t that bad”.

Safelives have previously reported that 62% of domestic abusers go on to harm their children directly, on top of the damage inflicted by witnessing the abuse of another.

Families in abuse cases report worrying patterns of behaviour and not always direct violence – abuse can take many forms and risk indicators are ignored. During COVID-19, with skyrocketing domestic abuse rates, this is a ticking time bomb for vulnerable children.

Campaigners urged the Under Secretary of State, Alex Chalk, to tell family court judges to stop this abuse and to reverse poor decisions leaving children at risk of harm, but to no avail. “It would be undemocratic to intervene with judges independent decisions. We appreciate it will be too late for some”.

Make no mistake, failing to act upon disclosures of abuse is a criminal level of complacency. The fact is that family is not always your safe place, particularly for children who have lived with domestic abuse. Domestic abuse doesn’t stop when a relationship ends between parents, it continues through the child arrangements. Like in Dickensian times, children are now seen, but not heard – and they are often abused. Children’s rights are human rights. Everyone deserves to feel safe at home and live free from abuse. Especially, when they should be under the Queen’s protection.

But over 130,000 children live in households where there is high-risk domestic abuse. Figures show that 62% of abusive parents harm their children directly [safelives 2019]. Tragically, a quarter (25%) of children in high-risk domestic abuse households are under 4 years old.

The fact that kids suffer abuse from their parents is tragic, but it rarely makes the news. Life is hard for these children, who live ignored and on the margins.

It is the fact that this happens with the active endorsement of Judges – and British law. That is the scandal.

And the solution is so simple:

The problem is that the Children’s Act 1989 says that the kids of a divorce must have contact with both parents, and that this is in their best interests.

This is viewed by judges as more important than the child’s right to be safe from abuse. The #thecourtsaid campaign is lobbying to change the Children’s Act to “make children safe” by inserting a right not to be abused within the best interest principle.

It’s a much-needed caveat. Domestic abuse is a huge risk factor for child abuse. It is vital children from homes where are parent has harmed, are fully protected by the law. This provision is already in place, comprised in Article 19 of the UN Convention which the UK has signed and adopted along with every other country in the world. The campaign is lobbying for article 19, a child’s right not to be abused, to be included in the best interest principles in England and Wales, but elsewhere, too.

Published by Natalie Page

Founder of #thecourtsaid - the global movement for survivor family justice. Author & Tutor of the 5* rated Court Confidence course, specifically written for survivors in Family Court to help protect their position, in a notoriously difficult system (England & Wales).

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