MPs call for urgent probe into way family courts treat victims of domestic abuse

More than 120 MPs have called for an urgent inquiry into the way the family courts in England and Wales treat victims of domestic abuse or rape and their children.

The MPs are pushing for the review after a number of cases where people have complained they have had to face their abusers in the courts.

They are also backing calls for a change in the law to make it more difficult for abusers to have contact with children conceived through rape.

It comes after campaigner Sammy Woodhouse (pictured), a survivor of Rotherham’s child exploitation scandal, called for a law change after revealing the man who raped her as a teenager had been given a chance to play a role in her son’s life.

Labour MP Louise Haigh is attempting to introduce the change with her Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts Bill.

The proposals would remove the automatic parental right of men who have fathered a child through rape.

Ms Haigh said that more than 120 MPs are now calling on the Government for an independent inquiry into the treatment of domestic abuse and violence in the family courts.

Under the Children Act 1989 there is no no absolute right for any parent to have contact with a child and courts are free to determine what is in the best interests of the child.

Courts have discretion to consider the facts and circumstances of each case, including the actions of the parents, and the wishes and feelings of the child, and any evidence of risk of harm, and to come to a decision in the facts of each case.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The family court system should never be used as a way to coerce or re-victimise those who have been abused.

“The law places a child’s welfare as the paramount consideration but we continue to work with other relevant departments and stakeholders to consider how we can better protect vulnerable mothers and children in our family courts.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dave Higgens / PA Wire.