Sheffield MP Louise Haigh raises concerns over abusers' access to children

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh
Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh
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Sheffield MP Louise Haigh has today raised concerns around vulnerable women and children being failed by family courts.

The Shadow Policing Minister urged the Government to ramp up protections for women and their families against their abusers.

Presenting a Ten Minute Rule Motion in the House of Commons, Ms Haigh drew on recent research by the charity Women’s Aid, which found clear examples of family courts prioritising domestic abusers’ rights over those of survivors’ and their children.

The report revealed the deaths of 19 children following contact granted to men who had known violent records.

It led to new protections for victims, requiring courts to consider the nature of any domestic abuse convictions when ruling on access to children.

However, addressing MPs today she said: “This should be sufficient and should be followed.

“But campaigners and survivors have concerns that it is not and that contact is still being granted inappropriately even when parents have been convicted of domestic abuse, let alone mere allegations being made.”

This comes after Rotherham sex abuse survivor, Sammy Woodhouse last year revealed that her rapist was encouraged to seek access to their child through the family courts.

In an interview with The Yorkshire Post, Ms Haigh said: “The man who had been sentenced and was serving a 35-year prison sentence for serial rape was encouraged by Rotherham council to apply for access and visitation to her child. And when you tell that story to anybody they have the same reaction as I did - that can’t be right.”

Today the Sheffield Heeley MP called for “an independent inquiry to establish the level of this discrimination in the courts.”

Ms Haigh will add that the probe would determine “if legislation needs changing, if guidance needs disseminating or altering, if practitioners need training or if more fundamental issues need addressing in this Parliament."