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Calls for ‘Jade's Law’ to go further as mother forced to spend £50k to block child abuser’s parental rights
31 January 2024, 07:34
A mother was forced to spend £50,000 on court fees to prevent her former partner who sexually abused their children from having parental rights, LBC has been told.
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There are calls for ‘Jade’s Law’ to go further to protect victims of child sexual abuse, in addition to automatically blocking anyone found guilty of killing their partner or ex from having access to their children.
London’s Independent Victims Commissioner, Claire Waxman OBE, told LBC the mother she is helping had to fight to protect her children despite their father being found guilty of abusing them.
She said it’s just one of the cases she’s aware of where ‘protective parents’ are made to spend “tens of thousands” to block parental access in the family courts, even when perpetrators have been convicted and jailed.
Ms Waxman said it was “imperative” to extend Jade’s law to stop children are being subjected to further distress, “knowing the parent who sexually abused them still has a say over their life”.
The government announced in October 2023 that the Victims and Prisoners Bill will be amended to introduce Jade's Law, to automatically suspend parental responsibility for parents sentenced for killing a partner or ex-partner, with whom they have children.
The law, named after Jade Ward who was murdered by her former partner in 2021, will prevent killers from having any say over key elements of their child’s life including whether they can access therapeutic support, go on holiday or change schools.
It will also mean the bereaved will no longer have to go through the lengthy and expensive application to restrict parental responsibility through the family court.
But Ms Waxman told LBC it’s “inhumane” that the families of children who’ve been sexually abused by a parent will still be subjected to the “distressing” process, and called for Jade’s Law to be extended.
She told LBC: “The emotional and financial burden should not sit with the protective parent. We also know the distress this will cause to the child, if they know the parent who has sexually abused them still has parental responsibility, which means they have a say over their life.
“The voices of the protective parent and the children are being silenced and dismissed in the family court. Unfortunately, the Victims and Prisoners Bill won’t go far enough to address the serious issues we have in the family court.
“But at the very least – and I emphasise the very least - I expect the government to agree to the amendment to extend Jade’s law to protect those who have gone through the criminal courts, child sex abuse victims where their parent has raped or sexually abused them, because we absolutely need to ensure everything is in place to safeguard that child once they’ve gone through the criminal courts, and not to leave them open to risk”, she said.
Child sexual abuse survivor Chris Tuck, from south London, was abused by a family member from the age of nine. She told LBC her father was able to continue his offending despite his conviction.
“He came out of prison, went back in to the family home and went on to commit further offences. By that time, the family unit didn’t want to go through the whole criminal justice process again”, she said.
Ms Tuck, who waived her right to anonymity to campaign for changes to prevent child sexual abuse, told LBC perpetrators will “misuse the power and control” afforded to them by parental responsibility.
She said: “The law must step in and stop it. We have opportunity to do this through the Victims and Prisoners Bill and stop that parental access to better protect children, and the partners who may have also gone through these offences, including domestic abuse, sexual offences and rape.
“The re-traumatisation the victims have to endure because they have to go to court to get the right of the parents taken away from them, is just huge. Why should they have to go through that process all over again?
“They’ve been abused, they’re traumatised. The system should protect them straight away, and at the moment they’re not protected. They have to go and fight for those rights to be taken away.”
The Victims and Prisoners Bill, which is expected to become law this year, is currently being considered at committee stage in the House of Lords.
An amendment has been submitted by Baroness Chakrabarti to include a sexual offence against a child in the family as grounds for requiring a Crown Court to make a prohibited steps order, protecting the children of an offender on sentencing, in addition to those convicted of the murder or manslaughter of another parent.