Mother of boys killed by her ex-partner hits out at concerns domestic abuse perpetrators should not be "alienated" from children in custody battles

A domestic abuse campaigner whose husband murdered her two children in a house fire has hit out at claims abusive partners should not be "alienated" from their children in custody battles.

Anti-domestic abuse campaign Claire Throssell

Penistone mother and activist Claire Throssell MBE has said abusive partners "alienate themselves" in a talk about her campaign to change the Domestic Abuse Bill on International Women's Day.

Ms Throssell's sons Jack and Paul Sykes, nine and 12, were killed in October 2014 when her abusive ex-husband barricaded them in an attic while they were on a court-ordered visit and set the house on fire.

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Anti-domestic abuse campaign Claire Throssell

Speaking at an International Women's Day virtual event hosted on Monday by the York-based charity Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS), Ms Throssell said: "Parental alienation doesn't exist. Parents [who are abusive] alienate themselves from their children.

"When you have thrown your child's food on the floor and made them eat it off the floor, why then would your child want to spend time with you?"

Campaigner Ms Throssell has been outspoken over recent years about the justice system and its handling of domestic abuse cases, and successfully lobbied for the Domestic Abuse Bill to be amended so that children may be legally recognised as victims.

She is continuing to campaign to abolish the "presumption of contact" rule in the family courts, which means that people arrested for domestic abuse still have automatic rights to fight for access to their children.

"It is incredible to me that you can assault, be locked up and then the next day represent yourself in a family court."

Ms Throssell's campaign to ban abusers from being able to cross-examine partners in family court proceedings successfully came into effect this year, however, she claims the presumption of contact means that children will continue to be at risk in the home.

"We can make these courts as safe as a house and get children listened to," she said.

"But is the presumption of contact is not changed the outcomes for children will stay the same and that's why I am still fighting."

Ms Throssell's words came the same day as an inquest heard how young mother Amy-Leanne Stringfellow, from Doncaster, was murdered by her partner Terence Papworth in June last year while he was on bail for threatening her with a gun.

Ms Stringfellow, 26, died of multiple injuries after Papworth - who was charged with murder but died days before his trial was due to take place - smashed a bottle over her head, strangled her and stabbed her in her throat with a sword.

South Yorkshire Police has referred itself to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) over its contact with Papworth and Ms Stringfellow in the weeks before the murder.

Ms Throssell said police "still have a long way to go before they really understand and become more victim focused" when it came to prosecuting crimes such as domestic abuse, sexual assault and rape.

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