‘If Jack and Paul’s voices had been heard, they could still be with us today’: a blog by Child First spokeswoman Claire Throssell
15th June 2o16
Children are like rainbows; they absorb the light and reflect it back brighter. They make our world a more colourful place to be.
My two beautiful, funny, talented boys, Jack and Paul, were expressive and articulate, affectionate and loving. They were also very aware that their dad was different to their friend’s dads in his behaviour and manner towards them – and me. I took the difficult decision to remove the boys from an environment that they couldn’t thrive in, to protect their emotional well-being and self-confidence. I didn’t want them to begin reflecting back their father’s behaviour or words.
Somewhere, along the painful process of separation and divorce and family court proceedings, Jack and Paul’s voices were lost. They were ultimately silenced forever through the miscommunications, misunderstandings and failures of the family courts and all agencies involved. I had warned them all that the boy’s father was a danger to them. Paul had bravely made a disclosure of his father’s abuse to his school, who acted immediately to support him. And yet, the family courts still allowed contact.
Throughout all the family court proceedings, I was harassed, insulted and intimidated – but I tried to remain strong. This was so the boy’s wishes and feelings – not mine – could be conveyed to the judge in an appropriate way. This was so that their voices – not mine – could be listened to and acted on through the legal process.
I didn’t take the decision to begin legal proceedings lightly. It was after repeated requests from the boys to not have contact with their dad, and after too many heartbreaking occasions of seeing my youngest son in tears every time he went on visits.
Paul was visited at school by Cafcass, and I encouraged him to be open, honest and brave about his feelings. He was asked to write a letter for the judge – but the judge never got to read it. Paul had been killed before the court hearing in November.
However, Jack’s voice was never even given the opportunity to be heard. The day that he was due to be interviewed by Cafcass about his feelings on contact with his dad was the day that his father locked him in an attic and set it on fire. Cafcass had cancelled the appointment.
It was the first day of the October half-term holiday, when Jack and Paul should have been looking forward to so much – carving pumpkins, Halloween, trick or treating. Instead, there was only a silence of two young boys eternally sleeping. I was lost and broken, with an empty heart and empty arms.
Jack had tried to save Paul, and stood by his brother to the end. The last words that Jack spoke – to the fireman who carried him out so tenderly, to the police officer who was desperately trying to help and to the doctor fighting to save his life – were: “My dad did this and he did it on purpose”. This would become his dying testament.
The family court system must change. No more children’s lives should be lost because their voices have not been heard or listened to. Child First wants to ensure that children’s voices are heard. keep children at the heart of family courts.
Jack and Paul’s lives – their futures, hopes, dreams – were taken from them by a dangerous man, a known abuser, in an act of twisted revenge and malice. If their voices had been heard, and listened to, and acted upon, they could still be with us today.
Claire Throssell wrote this blog as part of our Child First Children’s Voices Week. To sign the Child First petition, please click here.