Claire Throssel was on Woman’s Hour last week explaining how her two children, aged 12 and 9, were murdered by their father when he set fire to their home. He was a bully, the boys were scared of him and they didn’t want to see him. But the court had ordered five hours of unsupervised contact despite the mother’s concerns.
The court makes orders, and of course they have to be taken very seriously; but mother knows best. The judge has not lived with your children 24/7 and however many reports the court may have about them, they cannot know them, or their parents, like you do. So mothers must listen to their intuition and their bodies. Claire recounted how when the boys’ father had said he understood why fathers do that, she went cold. That was her warning. She let her children go, partly because of the court order and partly she said because she wanted to give him the chance to become a better father. Whilst the sentiment was admirable, it was not realistic, as any good leopard would confirm. A parent needs to prove, perhaps by attending a parenting course and having supervised contact for a while, that they can be a better parent before they have unsupervised access with vulnerable children.
This is an extreme example: the programme went on to say that out of 500 – 550 homicides a year, an average of only three will be family annihilations. I suspect that if the court had not ordered contact, or if the mother had refused to let her children go, the father would have found another time and another way to commit the atrocity he intended.
There are however many cases of continuing physical and emotional abuse of children – by mothers occasionally as well as fathers – which do not result in this tragedy but are still hugely damaging to children and their contact may also need to be stopped.
The courts work on the presumption that contact with both parents is in the best interests of children. Judges have to decide if a mother’s fears are justified or if they are just seeking to stop contact as revenge on their ex; it is very difficult to spot the people who are a real risk . Parents with genuine fears must stand up and fight for their children. And if they are not able to do that because they have been so worn down by the behaviour of their partner that they have lost their confidence, they need to get the support necessary to help them protect their children.
Please contact me for a free, confidential call if you have worries about the safety of a child with one of their parents.