The Harm Report two years on – too little too late
In 2016, when the Child First campaign was launched with the Nineteen Child Homicides report, my two precious sons Jack and Paul were included in the report’s tally of 19 children and two women who had been murdered by a perpetrator of domestic abuse in circumstances related to child contact over a ten-year period.
The Ministry of Justice’s expert Harm Panel’s report was published in June 2020 and the Domestic Abuse Act was given Royal Assent in 2021. We now have a Domestic Abuse Commissioner who is committed and determined to improve the family courts and children’s outcomes. But here we are, in 2022. There are restrictions preventing survivors from accessing Legal Aid, and delays in implementing, at a practical level, both the Harm Panel’s recommendations and the new measures within the new Domestic Abuse Act. This means the reality is that victims and survivors of domestic abuse are still experiencing the same traumatising and humiliating treatment that I suffered in 2014.
Within the family court system there remains inequality, injustice, fear and oppression. Too often, perpetrators are shielded because practice directions and guidance that were created to protect children don’t work effectively. There is still too much insistence on parental rights and a deafening silence about the rights of children.
What devastates me the most is that more women and children have been murdered, destined to become an anonymous letter of the alphabet on a serious case review or domestic homicide report. They are more than that – they had lives and futures that were taken away by their abusers. They were not weapons, pawns or possessions – they are children whose human rights were ignored time and again. Now, more than ever, our family justice system must fully incorporate these rights.
In 2016, I made the decision to support and champion the Child First campaign to prevent other parents having to exist like me. Many books have been published that advise you how to raise a child, but there are not so many telling you how to live without them. I promised my precious sons as I held them as they died, that no more children should have to die at the hands of someone who should love and protect them the most. This is why I support the report published by Women’s Aid today and hope that its recommendations will be followed. Until there is full accountability, better training for all agencies, and more effective practice directions and guidance that are consistently followed, outcomes for children will remain the same. Until then, the Child First campaign must continue.
Read Women’s Aid’s new report, Two years, too long: Mapping action on the Harm Panel’s findings, here.