Judge orders woman to directly arrange childcare arrangements with rapist ex-husband

Exclusive: The father would ‘sexually intimidate’ the mother and once ‘coerced her into sex’ while their child was in the adjacent room

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Thursday 11 May 2023 18:06 BST
The woman was ‘the victim of significant and serious domestic abuse and violence’, the family court heard. File image
The woman was ‘the victim of significant and serious domestic abuse and violence’, the family court heard. File image (PA)

A judge has been criticised for ordering a rape victim to directly arrange childcare with an ex-husband who subjected her to rape and domestic abuse.

The family courts found the man, who has not been identified in the court case, had raped the woman “on more than one occasion” and subjected her to domestic abuse which involved physical abuse, emotional abuse and elements of controlling and coercive behaviour.

The judge also ruled the man should be allowed to have unsupervised contact with his son despite the mother calling for the visits to be overseen.

During a remote hearing in the family courts in November, district judge Alan Jenkins asked the man and woman to negotiate directly on child contact arrangements and adjourned the hearing so they could discuss the issue “amongst yourselves”.

According to the appeal judgment, the pair met in 2006 before getting married in 2010 and divorcing in 2018, with the woman going to the police in 2020 to accuse her ex-husband of rape and sexual abuse.

Judge Emma Nott, a senior judge, ruled in March that there must be a new court hearing because the original trial judge did not conduct the court case properly.

Writing in the appeal judgment, Judge Nott states: “I accept entirely [the] mother’s statement that she was intimidated by and felt distressed by – and therefore felt she was not able properly to represent her views – her direct dealings with father.”

She later added: “It was inappropriate in my view for the mother to be directed to negotiate directly with father about the issue of contact.”

Judge Nott warned the “mother is the victim of significant and serious domestic abuse and violence, including sexual violence”. She said the father would “sexually intimidate” the mother and, on one specific occasion, “coerced her into sex” during child contact when their child was in the room next door.

Barrister Charlotte Proudman, who led the appeal in the family courts, told The Independent the man submitted intimate images of his ex-wife to the court and had been reported to the police for doing so.

The human rights lawyer criticised the lack of special measures in place for the woman, which forced a “rape victim to look at her rapist on a screen”.

She added: “The judge asked the rapist and victim to speak to each other. I think it is appalling that happened.

“It shows unfortunately the family courts are still not implementing special measures for victims of rape and other forms of domestic abuse consistently in every case, and that can result in victims feeling intimidated, distressed, and suffering emotionally.”

The hearing had a “detrimental impact” and “emotionally harmed” the rape victim, she added.

Dr Proudman said: “The way the trial judge spoke to the mother was not acceptable. He shut down any explanation she tried to give and dismissed her concerns about contact with a rapist and her child.”

She added that the woman’s treatment in the family courts is “part of a bigger picture and pattern” where the family courts fail to implement special measures in all cases.

“It will deter other victims from seeking justice from the family courts – if they fear they could be put in a position where they have to speak to their rapist,” she warned.

The Independent has contacted the district judge and the courts and tribunals judiciary for comment.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in