Two Years On, We Remember Jack and Paul
22nd October 2016
It was two years ago today that the life of our Child First spokeswoman Claire changed irrevocably.
On the 22nd October 2014, her ex-husband – a known perpetrator of domestic abuse – lured her two sons, Jack and Paul, aged 12 and 9, to the attic of their former family home during an unsupervised contact visit. This contact was granted through the family courts. He barricaded them in, and set 16 separate fires alight. You can read more about that terrible night in Claire’s own words here.
Claire was utterly let down by every agency involved in her case. A failure to take her concerns seriously – to give just one example, she had described how her ex had told her he could understand why fathers kill their children – meant that a dangerous man was allowed unsafe, unsupervised access to two young boys. One official involved in the case would not meet with the ex-husband alone, as she felt unsafe in his presence. Yet still the family courts and all the agencies involved saw fit to allow him to be unsupervised with children.
And where were the voices of Jack and Paul in all this? They were not heard. They were lost. And that is why Claire joined forces with us to campaign for the family courts to put the safety and wellbeing of children back where it belongs: at the heart of all its decisions – not the desire of an abusive parent for contact with children. They must put the child first.
It will be a long journey. Radical change is needed – attitudinal and structural. This will take time. But we have made incredible progress over the past ten months – and Claire was honoured this week at the Red magazine Women of the Year Awards for her work with us. As she said at the awards ceremony, where she received a standing ovation, she will keep “fighting for every child”. Women’s Aid will be with her every step of the way.
Today, Claire is hosting a ceilidh in her local community to celebrate Jack and Paul. Our team from Women’s Aid will be there to celebrate her sons with her. If you are reading this, please take a moment to #rememberjackandpaul today. And keep supporting the Child First campaign as we continue to strive for change. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, please do – for Claire, for Jack, for Paul, and for all the children and survivors of domestic abuse who are going through the family courts right now.