Twenty Child Homicides: Child First goes to Downing Street
“If we had launched the report this year, it would be called Twenty Child Homicides”
● In the first year since the Women’s Aid’s report Nineteen Child Homicides was published to launch the Child First campaign, yet another child has been killed through unsafe contact with an abusive parent
● Child First spokeswoman Claire Throssell is leading the Child First petition hand-in to 10 Downing Street, on Tuesday 24th January
● Twenty teddy bears, representing the twenty children who have been killed, will be taken to Parliament Square
● Women’s Aid strongly welcomes Government and family court judiciary’s commitment to protecting children and survivors of domestic abuse
Women’s Aid is marking 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. Claire Throssell, Child First spokeswoman and the mother of Jack and Paul (killed by their father during an unsupervised contact visit in 2014) is leading the hand-in. The petition, hosted by 38 Degrees, has been signed by over 40,000 supporters.
Another case has been identified in the past year of a child killed due to unsafe contact, as highlighted by a report being published on the campaign’s first year. The child was ordered to live with their father, a known perpetrator of domestic abuse, by the family courts. Months later, the child was dead. This means 20 children have been killed in 11 years due to unsafe contact with an abusive parent. In the majority of these cases, the contact was ordered by the family courts.
Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
“If we had launched the report this year, it would be called Twenty Child Homicides. The family courts simply must put children first. The deaths of these twenty children were all avoidable. Their fathers were all known as violent abusers to at least one statutory agency – yet still their desire for contact was put above any concern for the children.
“Less than 1% of child contact applications are refused, but domestic abuse features in 70-90% of cases going to the family courts. Yet, there is still a misguided belief among too many judges and other professionals that, because a relationship has ended, so has the domestic abuse. This, coupled with a toxic culture of ‘contact at all costs’, can prove fatal, as these homicides show.
“But the tide is turning. We are delighted by the revision of Practice Direction 12J, thanks to Sir James Munby and Mr Justice Cobb, as well as the Government’s recent commitment to ending cross-examination in the family courts – both key recommendations made in Nineteen Child Homicides, and key asks of Child First. So, we are marking the campaign’s first anniversary by taking our petition to 10 Downing Street – to celebrate our achievements this past year, and to highlight why these issues matter. There is much more work to be done, but we are making progress. Together we are making great progress on behalf of vulnerable children, and we must keep up the momentum.”
Claire Throssell, Child First spokeswoman, said:
“I joined forces with Women’s Aid to make sure that children’s voices are heard in the family courts, to protect children and help prevent further needless deaths. So much has been achieved this first year, but there is much more to be done. Children should not have to live in fear or danger. Twenty deaths due to unsafe child contact is unacceptable. It is too late for my sons Jack and Paul – but it is not too late for other children. I will keep going until children’s voices are at the heart of family courts – where they should be.”
Julie Walters, Patron of Women’s Aid, said:
“It is deeply shocking that the deaths of all of these twenty children were avoidable. The safety and wellbeing of children should be at the heart of every single decision made by the family courts. Unsafe child contact with unsafe parents must end.”
Angela Smith, MP for Penistone & Stocksbridge, said:
“When my constituent Claire Throssell came to me and told me how she had been failed by the family courts in the worst possible way, I knew we needed urgent change. Claire’s dignity and courage in the face of unimaginable loss is truly inspiring, and I am proud to work with her and Women’s Aid on Child First. We are making headway, and we will keep working until children are truly being put first in the family courts.”
Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, said:
“I am very pleased to support the Child First petition hand-in. I have been moved and motivated by the issues raised by this campaign – especially the trauma currently experienced by survivors of domestic abuse in the family court, so many of whom are cross-examined by their convicted abusers. It is a grotesque perversion of the justice system. I am proud to be taking this forward with the Government, and am determined to create meaningful change for all survivors going through the family courts.”
Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham and Yardley said:
“Survivors of domestic abuse going through the family courts are being re-traumatised, day in and day out, all over the country. This is throwing children in harm’s way, again and again – and it has to stop. I am very proud to have worked closely with Women’s Aid over the past year to bring these issues to light – and I will continue to call for urgent change.”
Zoe Dronfield, campaigner and survivor of domestic abuse, said:
“I am honoured to be going to Downing Street. There is a dangerous myth within family courts that women fabricate stories of domestic abuse to stop contact – but this is not the case, as statistics show. Devastation is caused to families that are trying to protect their children. This is not why the court is there, it is meant to support the vulnerable. Child First is a step towards change – and it is so urgently needed.”
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