Women’s Aid welcomes opportunity to protect survivors in family courts – another win for Child First

Friday 20th January 2017

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:

“There should never be a presumption of contact where one parent is known to be a perpetrator of domestic abuse, as is made clear in the revised version Practice Direction 12J published today. The future implementation of the new Practice Direction represents a vital opportunity for the family courts to start getting it right every time: children’s safety must be at the heart of all decisions made by the family courts – which, as our report Nineteen Child Homicides made painfully clear, is not always the case.

“We welcome this landmark opportunity to improve guidance for family judiciary in such cases, following our report Nineteen Child Homicides and the Child First campaign. We urge the Family Procedure Rule Committee, and Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Liz Truss MP, to agree the new Practice Direction, with all of the changes set out by Mr Justice Cobb, without delay. It will help to protect children from unsafe decisions on child contact. We thank Sir James Munby and Mr Justice Cobb for their commitment to this work and the President’s call that the report ‘must be read, in full, by everyone involved in the family justice system.’

“This revision is a robust and comprehensive framework for what judges and magistrates must do when overseeing child contact cases where domestic abuse has been present. We welcome that the President sets out ‘that more, much more, needs to be done to bring the family courts up to an acceptable standard, indeed to match the facilities and “kit” available in the Crown Court’. This revision must now be backed up with better access to protection measures in the family courts and regularly refreshed training for all family court judiciary, as Mr Justice Cobb’s report sets out. Without a thorough understanding of the nature and impact of domestic abuse, the courts cannot manage these complex cases effectively or safely.”

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