Male victims of abuse, court modernisation and controlling behaviour: The last week in family law

The Home Office has announced that up to £1 million will be given to organisations that support men and boys who are victims of gender-based violence. The announcement is part of a series of measures set out in a ‘position statement’ on male victims of crimes. The statement sets out twelve commitments to assist victims and survivors to receive support, encourage more people to come forward and seek help, and bring perpetrators to justice. The measures include giving £500,000 to specialist organisations that support male victims and survivors of domestic abuse, and awarding £500,000 to specialist LGBT domestic abuse organisations to improve inter-agency support for LGBT victims and survivors; raise awareness within LGBT communities to increase reporting; and improve monitoring and recording practices. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins commented: “Men can, and do, suffer from crimes such as domestic and sexual abuse. It is a horrendous experience that often goes unrecognised and it is heart-breaking that some men feel they cannot report their experiences because of societal views around masculinity. As a government we are determined to bring these horrific crimes to light and support victims and survivors, regardless of gender.”

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (‘HMCTS’) has announced that
it is extending its court modernisation programme by a year. The programme will
not now be completed until 2023. In a press release HMCTS stated: “Learning
from the services that we have already delivered and the feedback received,
including from the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office, we
have decided to re-order aspects of the programme. This will allow more time to
develop some of the shared systems that sit behind our next set of online
services, working to an updated finish date of 2023. The reform programme is
both essential and ambitious. It will transform the administration of justice
by shaping it around the needs of its users, and we are determined to deliver
it effectively in the interests of all. Existing services, which are already
providing quicker and easier access to justice for many – including divorcing
couples, executors of wills and people appealing decisions about their benefits
– continue to be available and will have more elements added to them in the
coming years.”

A mother has been jailed for contempt, after posting
information relating to family court litigation on Facebook. Sara Root’s two
children were taken into care in 2011. Following the making of the care orders,
the local authority were concerned that attempts had been made by Ms Root to
disrupt the children’s placements, and it therefore applied to the court for an
injunction order prohibiting her from making any publication of court papers.
Ms Root was found to have breached the injunction in 2017 and 2018 by
publishing information about the case on Facebook, and on both occasions she
received a six month suspended prison sentence. She has now been found to have
again breached the injunction by Mrs Justice Theis in the High Court. “With
some hesitation” Mrs Justice Theis decided to send her to prison.

And finally, a man who repeatedly beat his pregnant partner
has been jailed for three years for displaying controlling and coercive
behaviour. Reece Penkert  controlled his
partner by stopping her from going anywhere without him, taking away her phone
or looking through her messages and ordering her to delete her social
networking accounts so that she had little contact with her family and friends.
The relationship had started off well but within three months Penkert had
become controlling and violent. In one attack he punched his victim and
fractured his own hand in the process. When the victim became was pregnant he
continued with the same behaviour. In addition to the prison sentence the court
made a restraining order stopping Penkert from contacting her was also made.
Emma Harris, from the CPS, said: “Reece Penkert demonstrated extremely
controlling behaviour, which included assaulting his partner and trying to
isolate her from her friends and family. Having suffered months of isolation
and emotional and physical abuse, the victim showed immense bravery by giving
evidence during the trial, and I would like to thank her for the courage she
has shown. I hope today’s sentence provides some comfort to the victim and
shows the CPS’s commitment to prosecuting cases of domestic abuse.”