Family Court Injustice - One Mother's Story

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Our story is long and complicated, but there is one important truth at the centre of it all. A child has been taken away from his mother and has been put at risk by the very bodies that purport to be operating in his interest.

This is the result of a long campaign of psychological and emotional abuse by the father against the mother, in an attempt to gain custody of the child. This abuse has taken the form of repeat litigation over trivial matters (over 20 court appearances in five years), as well as coercive control, gaslighting, harassment, and micro-management of contact.

Ultimately, and heartbreakingly, this campaign was successful, and the abusive father was granted custody of the child.

The mother has stood firm throughout, despite years of abuse, and has battled through a court system that systematically fails to protect victims like herself. She has often, out of necessity, represented herself in court

 We do not want her fight to end here.

For the first time, the mother has a support network around her, but – crucially – she needs proper legal representation.

We have uncovered shocking evidence that reveals multiple failures by Social Services and Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), including outright lies by social workers.

Now we need your help to right this wrong. We are mounting an appeal against this decision, and have passed the first hurdle by preparing the first stage of an appeal, but have limited funds. With your kind donations, we can finance a solicitor and a barrister.

--- Why We Believe This is an Injustice ---

Put simply, the father has been manipulating all parties from day one.

He has, over a five-year period, spun a web of mistrust around the mother, extending from social services, to Cafcass, to the court system, to even the child's own GP surgery.

He has employed gaslighting and control techniques to condition the mother into a state of profound confusion and distrust, which he has then happily served up as evidence of her being difficult, over-emotional and mentally unsound.

And, on top of all this, he has taken advantage of her financial situation to drag her into lengthy court battles, where – without expensive legal representation and the ability to argue her case effectively – she has been all but defenceless.

Examples of this half-decade-long campaign of manipulation and abuse, include:

-                    Threats of court proceedings, starting from before the child was even born. These threats were often on completely trivial grounds, such as the mother being 5 minutes late for handovers when the father had often been late, or when he found it difficult to accuse the mother of breaching orders, he would make new applications to vary orders to make them stricter, as a form of control. (And, it is important to note, the mother has *never* denied access to the child.)

-                    A constant stream of lengthy, often contradictory emails and text messages, which were used as attempts to confuse and manipulate.

-                    Malicious reports over a six-year-period to their son's GP, and to the mother's own GP, regarding her sanity and mental health, despite there being no history or evidence of mental health issues. These reports have subsequently – and equally baselessly – been presented in evidence against her by Cafcass.

-                    Malicious reports were also made by the father to the police, Social Services and Cafcass, and almost always coincided with court proceedings. This way, we believe, he hoped his numerous baseless court applications would not raise suspicion.

This premeditated abuse has ensured that the mother has been alienated from any authority or organisation who would otherwise be able to help her. The father has been able to manipulate authorities into prejudging the mother by making sure there were always malicious reports on their system before she came into contact with them. 

The family courts describe coercive and controlling  behaviour as "an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim; an act or pattern of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour;"

We have since been able to access all these reports through SAR (Subject Access Request) records. They total over 60, they have all been written down as facts, and they have all aided his abuse.

--- Cafcass's Involvement, and Evidence of Misconduct ---
 
The father's abusive campaign came to a head after his last unfounded report to their child's GP. The GP referred the mother to Social Services based on unfounded allegations by the father, and a Section 37 report was ordered by the court to be carried out by Social Services.

Subsequently, a guardian was appointed. And evidence shows that from the moment Social Services became involved, they had a made a pre-emptive decision to remove the child from the mother.

We also have evidence that demonstrates:

-                   Authorities' attempts to openly undermine and bully her at meetings

-                   Authorities had purposefully damaged her position "behind the scenes" to favour the father and persistently ignored evidence of her domestic abuse.

-                    One Cafcass officer had written notes on their own system urging investigations be carried out about her domestic abuse, and once a Guardian was appointed, their own recommendations for investigations were ignored.

-                    Cafcass ignored its own domestic abuse safeguarding guidelines, which should be followed whenever domestic abuse has ever been an issue in a child contact case.

-                    Evidence a Social Worker lied in a report to be able recommended a Cafcass Guardian be appointed. Other documents show this had been the father's preferred outcome.

-                    Evidence another Social Worker stated he had no concerns about the mother's care of her child after meeting them, had affirmed that the allegations by the father were not true, stated the mother had done everything right, and that he did not believe there were any reasons why the child should be removed from the mother's care. Despite this, barely two months later, this social worker's report completely contradicted his earlier statements while still parroting the father's lies, and recommended the child be removed from the mother.

These failings, particularly around domestic abuse, meant that a set of rules called 'Practice Direction 12J' could not be considered and applied by a family court Judge. The purpose of PD12J is "…to set out what the Family Court or the High Court is required to do in any case in which it is alleged or admitted, or there is other reason to believe, that the child or a party has experienced domestic abuse perpetrated by another party or that there is a risk of such abuse."

The application of Practice Direction 12J by a family court would have meant specific rules having to be implemented and adhered to, and ultimately, could have resulted in a fact-finding hearing. This would have meant a court considering all of the evidence in relation to domestic abuse, and would have exposed the father's ongoing premeditated abuse and would have, more importantly, protected this child from being exposed to the abuse. This in itself is a significant failure by Cafcass, who purport to protect children, but often aid the Family Courts to promote contact with domestic abusers.
 
--- The Family Courts' Repeated Failure to Protect Abuse Victims ---

The father's pattern of abuse was premeditated and worked as he'd intended it to. No Court has ever questioned his motives or attempted to intervene to protect this mother and her child from further repeat applications to court. The family Court's treatment of the mother in the last few years has been appalling, and in contrast, the father has been able to gain power from having the Judicial System of his side.

Unfortunately, we are not alone in experiencing this. Far from it, in fact.

A Ministry of Justice report released May 2020 describes how Family Courts systematically fail to recognise domestic abuse and fail to protect victims and their children.

The report found that "…abuse is systematically minimised, ranging from children's voices not being heard, allegations being ignored, dismissed or disbelieved, to inadequate assessment of risk, traumatic court processes, perceived unsafe child arrangements, and abusers exercising continued control through repeat litigation and the threat of repeat litigation." [See note 1 for full report]

 Sound familiar?

Another report, by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Domestic Violence, noted:

"We have seen too many cases where the family courts and children's services were used by perpetrators to continue their controlling behaviour over their victims. State services and justice services must not collude with this practice." [See note 2 for full report]
 
Again, all too familiar.

Despite numerous reports by the APPG, and even a joint report by Cafcass and Women's Aid titled 'Allegations of domestic abuse in Child Contact Cases '. our story demonstrates state services and justice services are still failing to protect victims, and are by extension aiding abusers.
 
--- What Your Donations Will Be Used For ---

We are now in the process of appealing the Family Court Judge's decision based on what we believe to be solid grounds of appeal.

The funds will go entirely towards legal fees for the appeal and will cover solicitor and barrister fees. We will use a successful appeal to influence change and further bring to light how the family courts and children's authorities are complicit in domestic abuse.

This will, hopefully, lead to further investigations, and further awareness to a shamefully prejudiced and harmful system. This cannot continue to happen, and we hope our story can be useful in making the Family Courts listen to domestic abuse victims and their children, treating them with the respect they deserve.

 Domestic abuse must be taken seriously, not just in our case but in every case.

--- Thank you ----

Thank you so much for reading this far and wanting to know more about our story. We would be grateful for any donations to be able to bring this child home and hold those responsible to account.

If you are unable to contribute financially, but still want to help, we would be grateful if this GoFundMe page could be shared far and wide.

Please note that due to legal reasons and an ongoing case, we are unable to share any names of the parties involved. However, we will make sure to provide regular updates on any new developments.


THANK YOU!

Donations

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  • Claire Pyper 
    • £40 
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  • Anonymous 
    • £20 
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Organizer and beneficiary

A. Emsley 
Organizer
Ratcliffe Culey, ENG
A. A. 
Beneficiary
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