Tory MP abused by ex-husband backs report urging law change on parental contact

Campaigners are calling for a change in the law regarding the safety of domestic abuse victims

Matt Mathers
Sunday 12 May 2024 18:51 BST
Conservative MP for Burton Kate Kniveton
Conservative MP for Burton Kate Kniveton (PA Archive)

A Tory MP is backing calls for ministers to change the law to stop “privileging” a father’s right to contact his children over the safety and wellbeing of domestic abuse victims.

The Right to Equality organisation, which campaigns for legal reform to support the rights of women and girls, said it wants to ensure the current “presumption of contact is fully and finally removed” and will launch a report in parliament on Monday demanding change.

Kate Kniveton, the Conservative MP for Burton and Uttoxeter, was previously found by a family judge to have been raped and abused by her ex-husband and former minister Andrew Griffiths. She said it is “clear we need legislative change to create a safer environment for children”.

“I am supporting Right to Equality’s campaign as an ambassador for a presumption of no child contact in cases involving domestic abuse, opposing the current pro-contact culture that fails to protect survivors and their children,” she said.

“We believe no child should be required to undergo contact with an abusive parent.”

Ms Kniveton is backing the the Right to Equality organisation’s calls for change
Ms Kniveton is backing the the Right to Equality organisation’s calls for change (PA Media)

Under English and Welsh law, domestic abusers and child sex offenders keep their parental rights, even if they target their own children. This allows them to retain influence over where the child lives, as well as their healthcare and education.

Claire Waxman OBE, London’s first independent victims’ commissioner, in an interview with The Independent, previously described the law as it stood as “state-sanctioned abuse” as she called for change.

A family court ruling in 2021 found that Mr Griffiths, former Conservative MP for Burton, had – on the balance of probabilities – pressurised Ms Kniveton into engaging in sexual activity as well as raping her multiple times and used “coercive and controlling behaviour” against her.

The ruling on child contact was overturned the following year by a High Court judge, and earlier this year Mr Griffiths made a bid for weekly supervised contact with their child, who he previously saw once per week via video link for 30 minutes.

But a High Court judge ruled he could have no direct contact with his child in the “reasonably short term”, saying it would be in the child’s best interests to only have contact with their father through letters for that period of time.

The judge said Mr Griffiths had accepted most of the findings made against him, except the finding that he had raped Ms Kniveton.

Ms Kniveton had waived her right to anonymity, saying she hoped her case had shed light on the “often hidden family court system” and that publicity around her experiences would help empower others who are affected.

She has insisted it should not have to be “exceptional to shield a child from an abusive parent” as she called for parents found to have been abusive to automatically “forfeit the right to contact” in order to “prioritise the safety of our children”.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the government was “continuing to review the approach to parental access to make sure all children are kept from harm”.

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