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Copeland MP speaks out about family courts and praises a Whitehaven centre

Rachel Holliday and Trudy Harrison MP

Copeland’s MP has spoken out in Parliament about family courts and praised the Women Out West Centre in Whitehaven.

Speaking yesterday during the second reading of the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, Trudy Harrison said the family courts “needed a serious looking at”.

She said: “The Ministry of Justice recently funded the brilliant Women’s Out West centre in Whitehaven, founded by the equally brilliant Rachel Holliday.

“It has been in this centre that I have met domestic abuse survivors. The reoccurring theme, which I find so awful, is the family court system and specifically the most dreadful cases where mothers who are victims, who are survivors, have so bravely and courageously sought help – only to have the most cruel act to then be decided in a secretive family court and that is to remove her children.

“There is no stronger bond than that of mother and child but to have that bond torn apart is unthinkable and is far too often the outcome of mothers who seek help, who flee an abusive home and an abusive relationship and, in some circumstances, the children are placed by the State, by the family court, directly into the hands of the perpetrator.”

Mrs Harrison has been working with Rachel Holliday and the team at the WOW centre to tackle injustices in family courts and raise the profile to a national level.

She said: “At my local women’s centre I learned of a survivor of domestic abuse, who had her child taken away, placed in the care of the perpetrator by the family courts. And I commend all of those who are campaigning for her.”

There are two million victims of domestic abuse a year. And in Copeland, Cumbria police reported 549 incidents of domestic abuse over a six-month period between November 2018 and April 2019.

Mrs Harrison added: “I have been working with Safe Lives and support their calls for cultural change in children’s social care, Cafcass and the judiciary. Fear of social services is too often cited as the main single source of stress.”

The Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill will raise awareness about the devastating impact of domestic abuse on victims and their families, further protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

It will do this through establishing a domestic abuse commissioner to champion survivors (already in post); provide new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Orders; prohibit perpetrators of abuse from cross-examining their victims in person in the family courts and place a legal duty on councils to offer secure homes to those fleeing violence and their children.

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