Help us stop avoidable child deaths and make sure children are put first in the family courts.
More campaign news
March 2020 – Domestic abuse bill
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020 – Domestic abuse bill
- 10th April 2019
- 21st January 2019 – Child First win
- 15th September 2017 - New guidance for judges released
- 23rd February 2017 - Commitment to ban cross examination
- 24th January 2017 - Anniversary report and petition delivered
- 20th January 2017 - Review of Practice Direction 12J
- 4th January 2017 - Emergency review called
- 15th September 2016 - Debate in Parliament
Women’s Aid partnered with Queen Mary University of London on research looking at the experiences of survivors of domestic abuse in the family courts through the lens of human rights. The research uncovers a glaring gender gap in the way human rights are used and understood in the family courts and highlights new evidence of gender discrimination within the institutional culture of the courts. Find out more here.
We are delighted that the government established a panel of experts to review how the family courts protect children and parents in cases of domestic abuse and other serious offences, which is a significant win for our campaign. Women’s Aid has been part of the panel, which published an update report in October. We look forward to the panel’s final report later this year.
In March 2020, the domestic abuse bill returned to parliament. We were pleased that the government listened to our calls for a wider ban on cross-examination to protect all survivors who face this traumatising practice in the court system. But there remains a long way to go before the family courts will be truly safe for women and children. The law must make survivors automatically eligible for special protection measures in the family and civil courts, not only the criminal courts. Tackling the culture of ‘contact at all costs’ in the family courts remains a fundamental priority in order to keep survivors and their children safe after separation
We are pleased to have provided support to Louise Haigh MP on a Bill that would: “Remove the parental rights of fathers of children conceived through rape; to make provision for an inquiry into the handling by family courts of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls in child arrangement cases; and for connected purposes.” The Bill has cross-party support, and backs a key call of our campaign for a statutory inquiry into the family court response to domestic abuse. Louise’s speech introducing the Bill can be watched here.
The government and the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, have issued new guidance for judges and magistrates for child contact cases where there are allegations of domestic abuse. Find out more here.
The campaign has secured a promise from the government to create a new law to ban perpetrators of domestic abuse from being able to cross-examine their victims in the family court.
This new law is part of the Prison and Courts Bill which was originally stopped due to the snap General Election.
Women’s Aid marked the first anniversary of the launch of the Child First campaign and report Nineteen Child Homicides by handing the Child First petition into Number 10 Downing Street. It has been signed by over 42,000 people.
On the same day we released our report Child First: A Call to Action One Year On, which shows what we have achieved and what we still have to do to make children safe.
On 20th January, the President of the Family Division announced Mr Justice Cobb’s review of Practice Direction 12J: Child Arrangement and Contact Orders: Domestic Violence and Harm. The Practice Direction outlines what judges and magistrates must do when overseeing child contact cases where domestic abuse is alleged or has taken place. The review makes various suggestions to improve the practice direction including a clear definition of ‘harm’, addressing the ‘contact at all costs’ culture of the family courts and always putting children’s interest and safety first.
A debate in the House of Commons Chamber took place on 15 September 2016. Claire Throssell’s MP, Angela Smith, told the stories of Claire’s two sons, Jack, 12 and Paul, 9, who were both killed by their father, a known perpetrator of domestic abuse, in Parliament for the very first time. MPs from all political parties made moving and powerful speeches about the need for change. Read or watch the debate.
The Ministry of Justice has also asked Women’s Aid to review the training provided to family court staff on domestic abuse, and the guidance (Practice Direction 12J) issued to the judges and magistrates when there is an allegation of domestic abuse in child contact cases.
What are we calling for?
We are calling on the government, all family courts professionals, and involved agencies to make the family court process safer for women and children survivors of domestic abuse.
Join our Child First campaign today and help us to ensure that children are always put at the heart of contact decisions made by the family courts.
We launched the Child First campaign to stop avoidable child deaths as a result of unsafe child contact with dangerous perpetrators of domestic violence.
Survivors of domestic abuse frequently tell us that they can be re-victimised and traumatised by their abusers, even after separation, through the family court process.
“The family court was an arena for him to continue his abuse on a much more damaging scale. I wasn’t heard or listened to. My children have suffered drastically as a result.” – Survivor
Further information & support
If you have any concerns about your safety, or that of anyone you know, please contact the police on 999 in an emergency or call the National Domestic Violence Helpline (run between Women’s Aid and Refuge): 0808 2000 247
Take Action – become a Campaign Champion
Support our national campaigns on a local level, give survivors of domestic violence a voice and help to ensure that politicians and other key decision makers are listening.