Sheffield mother whose ex-husband killed their sons welcomes new ‘landmark’ domestic abuse laws

Claire Throssell lays 20 teddy bears in Westminster symbolising the children who have died as a result of unsafe child contact with a parent who is a perpetrator of domestic abuse, after she delivered a petition to Downing Street. Photo. Picture date: Tuesday January 24, 2017. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Claire Throssell lays 20 teddy bears in Westminster symbolising the children who have died as a result of unsafe child contact with a parent who is a perpetrator of domestic abuse, after she delivered a petition to Downing Street. Photo. Picture date: Tuesday January 24, 2017. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

A Sheffield mother whose sons were killed by her abusive ex-husband has welcomed new ‘landmark’ laws to protect domestic abuse victims. 

The new laws will create a legal definition of domestic abuse for the first time, which will include economic abuse such as stopping someone going to work or getting an education, and preventing access to a phone or transport. 

Claire Throssell and her sons Jack and Paul

Claire Throssell and her sons Jack and Paul

The long-awaited legislation will also will also ban abusers from cross-examining victims in family courts.

Claire Throssell, from Penistone, has campaigned for such changes since her abusive ex-husband killed their two sons, Paul, then aged nine, and Jack, then aged 12, in a house fire.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Ms Throssell said the legislation would make a big difference.

The new draft bill which will go before MPs will also:

- Give victims special protections when they are giving evidence in criminal trials

- Introduce a domestic abuse commissioner to monitor and advise on best practise

- Force perpetrators into taking behaviour changing programmes and ban them from going to certain places.

In 2014, before her sons died, Ms Throssell was cross-examined by her ex-husband in the family courts, which Justice Secretary David Gauke said can cause “immense distress and amount to a continuation of abuse.”

Ms Throssell said: “All the evidence was there but he was still trying to control so you feel like you are still that piece of dirt underneath his shoe - how dare I take him to court? How dare I keep the children away from him?

“I came across very poorly in the trial, it was a good job I had a solicitor there because when you’ve been told long enough you can’t do something, you instantly curl up again inside and feel worthless.”

Following the trial her ex-husband was granted five hours a week with the children, Ms Throssell said her boys cried because they never wanted to see him again.

Claire’s story

Claire Throssell was married to her ex-husband Darren for four years before he started to become abusive. The point at which she realised it had gone too far was when he hit out at their son Jack.

She said: “It was all emotional and coercive but some of it was physical as well.

“The crunch came in the January, Jack was being lippy as 12 year olds do and Darren went for him with his fist. He would have hit him straight in the face but without thinking about it I just pushed Jack into his bedroom took the punch on my shoulder, it knocked me off balance and I fell down the stairs. All I remember is Jack and Paul absolutely distraught and I realised they can’t go on seeing things like that.”

But after leaving her husband and going through courts, Darren was still allowed to see the children five hours a week.

Claire said: “On an unsupervised access visit to my ex-husband my two sons went up to the attic, lured there by a new train set. While up there my ex-husband set 14 separate fires, not just to make sure nobody could get in but, so that the boys couldn’t get out.”

The two brothers were trapped and when the fire service came, Jack said to a fireman “my dad did this and he did it on purpose.”

They both later died in their mother’s arms in hospital and their father also died in the fire. 

Since then, Ms Throssell has campaigned for stronger legislation such as this and helped to raise awareness of domestic abuse. 

Around two million people aged 16 to 59 have been a victim of domestic abuse, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales. 

Government experts estimate domestic abuse cost society £66 billion in 2016/17 and it is hoped the changes will help to reduce this.

If you have experienced domestic abuse in Sheffield, you can call Sheffield DACT’s domestic abuse helpline on 0808 808 2241.