Behind Closed Doors – reaction from a Flag DV trustee

Here at FLAG DV we have been reflecting upon the fascinating documentary Behind Closed Doors shown on ITV on 14th  February and shown again yesterday (available on ITV player).

The programme makers had unprecedented access to the Thames Valley Police Domestic Abuse Investigation Unit and the victims / survivors they work alongside. Filmed over a 12 month period, and starting from the moment a 999 call is received, the film followed three brave women, who shared their experiences to help the wider public gain an understanding of the issue of domestic abuse.

Personally, the documentary evoked in me a number of emotions, and I must admit many of them were negative. Continue reading

More people represent themselves in family courts (audio)

A Freedom of Information request by BBC Radio Berkshire has shown that increasing numbers of people are representing themselves in Reading Family Court.

You can hear our Chair, Helen Grimbleby talking about this, live on the breakfast show this morning with Andrew Peach.

Starting at approximately 11 minutes in.

Legal aid cuts: courts may make faulty decision on domestic violence

Scales of JusticeToday, 13 May, sees the publication of the Response of the Judicial Executive Board to the Justice Committee Inquiry. (“the Response.”).

This publication is about judicial experience of the impact of the legal aid cuts which came into effect in April 2013 as set out by the country’s most senior judges. The Lord Chief Justice who is the “Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales“, “exercises executive and leadership responsibilities through, and with the support of, the Judicial Executive Board“.

Our observations are set out below.

1. The impact of the legal cuts is nothing short of shocking.

“[the cuts could have a]…. significant impact on the efficiency and aptitude of the courts to achieve an equitable result in those cases where litigants in person are unable to afford to commission expert evidence….. Examples of expert evidence which are seen as critically important are …… police logs and Crime Report Information System material to elucidate e.g. those cases in which domestic violence is alleged, risk assessment in relation to e.g. sexual abuse….”

“Significant injustice may result from inability to instruct experts and meet the costs of required disclosure …. Faulty decisions about domestic violence or sexual abuse may be the result of an absence of police disclosure.”

2. The vulnerable are suffering as a result of the cuts, including children.

“The potential litigants who we believe have seen the most pronounced consequences are …. separated parents with children …..”

3. Families have been disproportionately effected by the cuts.

“…. large increase in the number of cases where one or both parties do not have legal representation – most prominently in private family law litigation.”

4. The Response also suggests that the cuts may be a false economy.

“In the family courts judicial perception is that private law appointments where both sides are unrepresented typically take in the region of 50% longer…”

The full publication can be viewed here.

Doing it for the Kids

We’re taking the title of this week’s post from the world of pop and Mr Robbie Williams “Doing it for the kids” because it encapsulates such an important part of what we do.

How does domestic violence and abuse affect children?
There’s no easy way to say it but children die at the hands of abusive parents. In one study 5% of pregnant women reported miscarriage as a result of domestic violence.

You may have been following the case of alleged murder which is in trial at the moment. If proven, 4 year old Daniel Pelka will join the horrific figure of 33 children murdered by parents each year.

Children are often not just on the sidelines when domestic abuse take place. The suffer sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect or abduction.

Children are harmed by domestic abuse whether they are directly abused or not. A huge 90% of children in households where there is domestic violence and abuse are thought to be in the same or the next room.

Singer Jahmene Douglas has spoken openly about the violence and abuse both he and his mother suffered at the hands of his father.

His brother took his own life.

He has said

I think that living in fear is one of the worst things that you can go through

It’s not easy to leave

Remaining in a relationship of abuse is harmful to children.

However, we understand that leaving may also bring its own difficulties for children. For the children of people who leave abusive relationships, they may lose their home, a parent or parent figure, their room, friends, family and possessions and they may have to change school. These changes could be huge in the life of a child.

Protection, Empowerment and Choice

Our top priority for children who live in abusive households is the protection of those children and we adhere to good principles of safeguarding children.

We believe that in so far as the law can help with this, protection is best given to children by providing victims of domestic violence and abuse with legal advice about their rights and responsibilities.

Through understanding their legal rights and responsibilities we believe that people are empowered to make the choices that are right for them and their children.