Violent parents will lose access

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The Independent Online

Domestic violence will for the first time be taken into account when court orders are made granting parents the right to see their children.

Domestic violence will for the first time be taken into account when court orders are made granting parents the right to see their children.

A Government amendment to the Adoption and Children Bill, to be debated on Wednesday, means that children who have suffered or could suffer the trauma of witnessing violence at home will be protected from potential abusers.

The breakthrough, which will delight campaigners against domestic violence, comes after it emerged that 15 children were killed in recent years by violent parents with a history of either child abuse or violent behaviour at home.

In a separate move these cases and others like them will now be investigated in a series of inquiries aimed at stopping parental contact orders being used to abuse or in the worst cases murder children.

Lord Chancellor's Department minister Rosie Winterton said: "Protecting children and their parents from violence and abuse is a key priority for the Government. We know that children can be harmed not only by abuse or neglect aimed directly at them but also be witnessing the ill-treatment of others, especially people they love.

"These amendments will ensure the courts take into account any harm a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering, including harm caused by witnessing violence, when making an order."

The Government is to provide £900,000 over the next three years to encourage supervised contact for young people at risk. There are also plans to work with voluntary groups to improve the facilities at contact centres, which provide a neutral venue for children and the parent they don't live with to meet.

But campaigners are concerned that as well as abusing or beating their children, violent parents use contact orders to track down fleeing partners. They want loopholes in the law closed up so this can be prevented.

Margaret Moran, Labour MP for Luton South and chair of the all-party group on domestic violence, is determined such cases are brought to the attention of the courts and the Government. She was "delighted" that ministers have agreed to take domestic violence into account in making contact orders.

She said: "In every other field of child protection we have full inquiries so we can learn the lessons of what has gone on. But in cases like this, where we have domestic violence and the courts have ordered contact with the fleeing partner and children that has not been the case. So this is a really major step forward."

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