MPs call for inquiry into court treatment of victims of rape and domestic violence following Rotherham woman’s campaign

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.

By Claire Lewis
Thursday, 16 May, 2019, 07:57
Sammy Woodhouse

The politicians are pushing for the review following a number of cases where people have complained about having to face their abusers at court.

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, a survivor of Rotherham's child exploitation scandal, called for a law change after revealing that the man who raped her as a teenager had been given a chance to play a role in her son's life.

Her attacker, Arshid Hussain, the ringleader of a notorious child abuse gang who was jailed for 35 years in 2016 - was contacted by Rotherham Council about care proceedings in 2017.

Sammy, who was 15 when she became pregnant, launched an online petition calling for the law to be changed, which was signed by hundreds of thousands of supporters.

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She was one of 1,400 victims of child sexual exploitation identified in an independent report which found that men of predominantly Pakistani heritage preyed on vulnerable young girls in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 while those in authority failed to act.

Sheffield 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 rights of men who have fathered a child through rape.

Ms Haigh said 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.

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."