Weekly Family Law Update January 24, 2020

Child abuse, stalking and domestic abuse: The last week in family law

The Office for National
Statistics has published its first compendium of child abuse statistics,
drawing on a range of data sources to improve understanding of the extent and
circumstances of abuse in childhood. The statistics deal with child abuse in
England and Wales, for the year ending March 2019. Amongst the main points are
that The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that one in five adults
aged 18 to 74 years experienced at least one form of child abuse, whether
emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or witnessing domestic violence
or abuse, before the age of 16 years (8.5 million people); that at the 31st
of March 2019, 49,570 children in England and 4,810 children in Wales were
looked after by their local authority because of experience or risk of abuse or
neglect; and that around half of adults (52%) who experienced abuse before the
age of 16 years also experienced domestic abuse later in life, compared with
13% of those who did not experience abuse before the age of 16 years.

Family cases which reach
the Court of Appeal should be broadcast online to dispel fears about judicial
prejudice, the Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton has suggested. Speaking
at an event organised by the UK Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists and
Techbar, he said: “There are some family cases that are really important…and
people want to know how we are doing things. The motive for live-streaming is
people should be able to see how we are doing our job.”

New Stalking Protection
Orders (‘SPOs’) will allow courts in England and Wales to move quicker to ban
stalkers from contacting victims or visiting their home, place of work or
study. This will grant victims more time to recover from their ordeal. In
addition to banning perpetrators from approaching or contacting their victims,
SPOs can also force stalkers to seek professional help. According to the Crime
Survey for England and Wales, almost one in five women over the age of 16 have
experienced stalking, as well as almost one in ten men. The Orders will usually
last for a minimum of 2 years, with a breach counting as a criminal offence
that can result in up to 5 years in prison. Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability,
Victoria Atkins said: “Every year, thousands of people live with the terrifying
experience of being stalked, which can lead to victims feeling isolated, abused
or even losing their lives. I am determined that we do everything we can to
better protect victims and new Stalking Protection Orders will help the police
to intervene and take action against perpetrators at the earliest opportunity. In
addition to the SPOs, courts will also be able to impose an interim SPO to
provide immediate protection for victims while a decision is being made.” SPOs
came into effect on Monday the 20th of January, and have the support
of anti-stalking campaigners and law enforcement.

And finally, dozens of
charities, police forces and experts are calling on the Government to set up
domestic violence prevention programmes targeting offenders as well as victims,
after a pilot project reportedly led to a sustained reduction in abuse. The
pilot scheme, ‘Drive’, worked with 506 prolific domestic violence perpetrators,
aged 17 to 81. Drive said that currently less than 1% of perpetrators receive a
specialist intervention to challenge or change their behaviour, and that opportunities
are being missed to stop a perpetrator abusing their current victim and prevent
them from moving on to their next. This failure to prevent the cycle of abuse,
they say, costs the lives of two women a week and around £66bn a year in social
and economic costs. Drive Director,
Kyla Kirkpatrick said:  “We welcome the
Prime Minister’s ambition to cut violent crime by 20%. Given more than a third
of violent crime is domestic abuse, investing in proven ways to disrupt and
change the behaviour of perpetrators is common sense. Previous governments have
been focussed on simply addressing the devastating impact of domestic abuse rather
than stopping it. It’s crucial we ensure the care and support of those affected
by domestic abuse remains a priority, but if we are to end domestic abuse for
good, we must tackle it at the source. The re-introduction of the Domestic
Abuse Bill will be an important first step, but a huge piece of the puzzle is
still missing – a strategic approach to perpetrators – the people who cause