|News Bulletin March 2021: |
Domestic Abuse Bill in the House of Lords
Good news: Victory against “parental alienation”
The Domestic Abuse Bill is now going through Report stage in the House of Lords. This is when Lords can put amendments to the Bill which can be voted on.
Yesterday (8 March) we were lobbying Lords to OPPOSE an amendment which would have included in the definition of domestic abuse ‘behaviour deliberately designed to damage the relationship between a child of the parent and the other parent’. This would open the way for violent fathers to allege ‘parental alienation’ or to claim that mothers or children who report domestic violence, especially sexual violence, are actually domestic abusers! The amendment described parental alienation but without calling it that, and it was potentially dangerous to women and children whom the Bill aims to protect.
There was significant opposition to this amendment particularly from Baroness Bennett and Baroness Helic who both spoke really well against it – see their speeches here.
At the end of the discussion the government made clear they are opposed to “parental alienation” being in the Bill, and the amendment was withdrawn! Victory to all those of us who have been exposing the how PA has fast become the default argument of abusers against any mother who raises safety concerns. BUT there is reference to PA in the “Statutory Guidance” which goes along with the Bill and we need to keep up the pressure to get it out altogether . . . watch this space. See our full briefing to the Lords here
Tomorrow 10 March: Presumption of contact
We are urging Lords to SUPPORT amendment 42 by Baroness Jenny Jones. This would change the presumption of contact and prohibit unsupervised contact when there has been domestic abuse. As many of you know, the presumption of contact pervades Children’s Services, CAFCASS and the whole family court process and is used by abusive fathers to insist on unsupervised access and even residence of their children, with deeply harmful and even lethal consequences.
It is urgent for Lords to speak in favour of and vote for this amendment – see our briefing here. It would be very good if you would write to the Lords (contact details here) and say something like:
I/we urge you to support Amendment 42 proposed by Baroness Jones to amend the presumption of contact and prohibit unsupervised contact in cases of domestic abuse. If you have been in the family court and have had to fight what the Harm Report calls the “pro contact culture” it will be helpful to tell them – briefly – how this has affected you and your children. Don’t include the names of your children or any parties in court (except the judge which is public information) as this could breach any court order you are under.
Other amendments we are supporting are in our briefing.
Also, we thought you might want to know about this important forthcoming online event: Strengthening Bonds: Abolishing the Child Welfare System and re-envisioning child well-being. Register here. Programme here.
Organisers say: The Columbia Journal of Race and Law is thrilled to announce its upcoming Symposium, Strengthened Bonds: Abolishing the Child Welfare System and Re-Envisioning Child Well-Being in collaboration with Columbia Law School. The symposium marks the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking book, Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare by law professor Dorothy Roberts. The virtual symposium will kick off with a keynote address by Professor Roberts, followed by a panel of responders, on the evening of March 25, 2021. Over the subsequent two days, March 26 and March 27, academics from multiple disciplines, as well as impacted parents and youth, community members, advocates, and activists, will present the papers that will comprise the two issues the Columbia Journal of Race and Law is devoting to this symposium.