The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 became law on 29 April 2021. The long sorry saga of this parade of discrimination masquerading as care and protection began in 2018. But it did not end when the Act became law. The grand finale, or to be more precise, the grand nadir, came only in July 2022.
I had not the heart to blog about it at the time. After several years of DA Act related posts and submissions, I had rather run out of steam – and there was nothing to celebrate and nothing further to be done in the context of that Act. I reprise the sequence of events and some of the key issues in the Appendices below.
Before proceeding to the main event, which will focus on parental alienation, I draw to your attention some matters covered in the Appendices. I have never previously posted on a couple of key issues that emerged during this saga and so take the opportunity to do so in Appendices B and C. Appendix A is a timeline of the progress of the DA Bill, its associated Guidance and MOJ “research”, and the Istanbul Convention. Appendix B exposes the key piece of evidence that led to my conclusion that the Istanbul Convention was ratified under false pretences, arguably illegally. Appendix C exposes the discovery that the Government is now promulgating the notion that “there is no automatic right to contact between a parent and child”, until such a right is granted by Government. There is no basis in law for this stance. However, I digress…
What I wish to draw to your attention in this post is the extent to which Ministers have the power to define law virtually unilaterally in certain circumstances. These circumstances occur when primary legislation, duly passed by Parliament, requires “clarification” in the form of Statutory Guidance. This effectively devolves the power of defining the de facto law to Ministers. So it was for the DA Act.
As the DA Bill was on its long journey through Parliament, the associated Statutory Guidance was first published as a draft in July 2020. It was later re-issued in draft in July 2021, after which yet another public “consultation” was held, which closed 14 September 2021. After that all was quiet, as far as I am aware, until the Government’s response to that consultation was published alongside the formal Guidance itself in July 2022.
The point of my present post is to highlight how the one possible benefit to arise from this sorry episode, namely the recognition of parental alienation (PA) as a form of child abuse, was snatched away at the last moment.
The Statutory Guidance was issued by the Home Office under Home Secretary Priti Patel. She was also the Home Secretary who just managed to ratify the Istanbul Convention before losing her job. Whether a different Home Secretary might have produced a different outcome I rather doubt, but one cannot be sure.
Here are some key extracts from the July 2021 draft Guidance. For clarity I put them in blue text to emphasise that these are from the draft, not the final Guidance. These extracts are taken from the Section “Recognising Domestic Abuse”, intended to provide Guidance on what constitutes domestic abuse.
Controlling or coercive behaviour
56. Controlling or coercive behaviour also forms part of the definition of domestic abuse in section 1(3)(c) of the 2021 Act.
57. Below is a list of behaviours that are within the range and continuum of coercive or controlling behaviour. This list is not exhaustive. (I include just the relevant examples below).
Using children to control their victim, for example, threatening to take the children away or manipulating professionals to increase the risk of children being prevented from having contact with the victim or having children’s social care involvement;
Alienating behaviours [footnote 26], including invidious drip feeding of negative views to a child by one parent about the other parent, or any attempt by one parent to frustrate or limit the child’s contact with the other parent, other than for reasons based on concern about the risk to that child;
Footnote 26 read: Whilst there is no single definition of alienating behaviours (sometimes referred to as ’parental alienation’), the Children and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) defines parental alienation as when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.
Emotional or psychological abuse
60. Domestic abuse often involves emotional or psychological abuse. This can include: (relevant examples here only).
Turning children and friends against the victim (which may have a subsequent impact on children) including falsely and without justification telling a child that the other parent abandoned them, never loved them, or never wanted them;
Distorting a child’s memories about the victim parent, including telling a child the other parent will pick them up/meet them, when that was not true, falsely telling medical/school staff they have sole custody of a child so that no information is provided to the other parent, painting the other parent in a negative light to the child, including mocking their personality characteristics, job, friends, family and belittling them (including in front of the child);
Hence, in the July 2021 draft Guidance it was clear that Parental Alienation was expliclty included as a form of controlling or coercive behaviour and a form of emotional or psychological abuse (both forms of domestic abuse, of both the alienated parent and the child).
But then, suddenly, it wasn’t.
All the above extracts were removed from the Statutory Guidance as published in July 2022. The only part which remains has been robbed of its specific allusion to parental alienation in respect of its relation to child contact denial, now reading “using children to control their victim, for example, threatening to take the children away”.
Some might argue that the examples of controlling or coercive behaviour, and of emotional or psychological abuse, within the Guidelines are sufficient to cover PA. I beg to differ. Certainly, PA is indeed a form of controlling or coercive behaviour, and also a form of emotional and psychological abuse, but the words remaining within the Guidance do not reflect the specific characteristics of PA which make it PA. The text that remains within the Guidance was never intended to do so, quite the contrary. Suitable wording that does specifically reflect the phenomenon of parental alienation – the words in blue above – were removed. This was not an accident.
This change was given spurious legitimacy by the Government’s response to the consultation on the draft Guidance. In one of my earliest posts I noted that it was the Government who put the “Con” into “Consultation”.
The Government’s response to the consultation submissions in respect of parental alienation is contained in paras 3 to 8. They note that they were presented with two diametrically opposed schools of thought. One was aligned with the above extracts from the 2021 draft Guidance, in blue. The other was the feminist position on PA – that claims of PA are an abuser’s strategy to discredit claims of their abusive behaviours. Para 6 makes the decision, thus,
“The consultation responses highlighted a lack of shared understanding of ‘parental alienation’ – its definition and implications, and how to approach it in practice. Therefore, explicit references to ‘parental alienation’ and ‘alienating behaviours’ have not been made in the finalised draft.”
I invite you to critically examine that reasoning. How does the “lack of shared understanding” lead to a decision to exclude PA as a form of abuse? Could one not equally argue that, to err on the side of caution, PA should be included as a form of abuse? After all, the behaviours described above, in blue, are indisputably undesirable. It is not only the contentious term “parental alienation” but the words that describe these behaviours which have been removed.
The reality is clear enough. There was always a determination to remove PA from the Guidance and the Consultation was a vehicle for giving it apparent legitimacy. The game is given away by para 7 which starts,
“This approach to finalising the guidance reflects findings from ‘Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases‘ Report (June 2020), often referred to as the Harm Panel Report.”
Yes, well, it would. The panel that was responsible for that so-called Harms Report was so one-sided in terms of their views on these very issues that the nature of their eventual report was inevitable. The sole author of the influential Literature Review which forms a key part of the overall Harms Report was Adrienne Barnett, a feminist barrister turned academic, whose views on parental alienation are well known and uncompromisingly partisan. “PA’s intended purpose”, she has written in academic publication, is “to shut down domestic abuse in private family law”. I have deconstructed her perspective here. Just to orient readers on Dr Barnett’s views, here is an extract from the Abstract of her PhD thesis,
“This study concludes that in order to regain a valid and authoritative voice for women in current family law we need to expose and disrupt law’s construction of the ‘scientific truth’ about children’s welfare”.
Are you happy with “disrupting scientific truth”, i.e., radically changing or undermining scientific truth? Especially where it impacts children’s welfare? And this is the axis of opinion which has been used to imbue with ostensible legitimacy the removal of PA as a form of domestic abuse (of parents and children) .
By Section 8 of the consultation response, in a section titled Alienating Behaviours, the discussion has, bewilderingly, moved onto perpetrator programmes – and they don’t mean for alienators.
But what is the true scientific status of PA? I’m not about to attempt a literature review of parental alienation in this post – though the reason is telling in itself: the academic literature on PA is too vast for me to address in less than many months of work.
By 2016, parental alienation and alienating behaviours in separated or divorced families had been well documented in over 500 references drawn from the professional literature across 30 countries, (Harman et al, 2016).
By 2018 there were more than one thousand research and clinical studies reported in scientific and professional journals, books and book chapters, (Kruk, 2018).
A recent systematic review of the literature on PA by Portilla-Saavedra et al (2021) has concluded that “parental alienation is a phenomenon with a significant prevalence in the population and has been linked to a deterioration in the mental health of people who experience it or have experienced it” and that “the 11 selected studies established relationships between the experience of parental alienation and mental health indicators, both in children, adolescents, and adults who experience or experienced these dynamics. It was also related to psychological abuse.” The paper also identified a need to “place it as a form of child abuse”.
Moreover, PA is not a rare phenomenon but appallingly common (Harman et al, 2019).
It is tempting to express this as the political establishment (irrespective of Party persuasion) having been captured by the partisan feminist lobby. But in truth it is not a capture but an alliance, a symbiosis. Feminism is a tool for those of an authoritarian bent – which tends to be everyone in positions of power unless that power is closely monitored and severely restricted. But the political process is also a tool for feminism. This is the feminist establishment; feminism gifts the establishment with ostensible moral legitimacy, whilst in return the establishment yields some power to feminism.
The result is that a serious and very widespread social ill is being hidden and effectively condoned. The feminist establishment is throwing vast numbers of children to the wolves.
Appendix A: The Recent Timeline of the Ongoing Exercise in Utter Futility
The harm to children done by PA is facilitated by the narrative that domestic abuse is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against female victims. But men, too, are victims of partner abuse, 95% of such being heterosexual, i.e., with perpetration by female partners. If you doubt it, watch this. Moreover, DV has serious impacts on men, as this study based on non-resident fathers demonstrates.
There is a steadfast refusal by society as a whole, and feminists in particular, to believe that partner abuse of men by women is comparable in impact and prevalence to the reverse. For feminists, maintaining the fiction that partner abuse is “overwhelmingly perpetrated by men on women” is not only a cornerstone of their perception of the world, but also crucial to maintaining their influence which constantly levers this perception.
September 2014: My commentary on the Government’s “Consultation” on making coercive and controlling behaviours in intimate relationships an explicit criminal offence, under Theresa May as Home Secretary. They did, via an amendment to the Serious Crime Act, and it became law on 29 December 2015. This would have been OK were it not for the totally sex-skewed narrative around it…and, of course, Homo sapiens’ innate sex bias. As a result, 99% of convictions for this new offence are men, despite the coercive control of men by women being extremely common, at least as common as the reverse, and its impacts severe: see Graham-Kevan and Powney (2021) the 2017 BPM Survey of Male Victims.
September 2014: The appalling sexism of the Istanbul Convention.
July 2015: The fact is exposed that the Crown Prosecution Service reports ostensibly on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) actually hide male victimisation by redefining any male victims as a VAWG statistic.
August 2017: A brief resume of the academic work refuting the feminist “patriarchal power and control” aetiology of DV. The literature is far vaster than indicated in that post, long though it is.
July 2019: The Government raised a Consultation in 2018 on their ideas for the pending Domestic Abuse Bill. The draft Bill then went forward to the Public Bill Committee who then invited evidence from the public, as is normal. In this post I link to male-friendly submissions to both the Consultation and the Public Bill Committee. I submitted one on behalf of Parity. I also summarised some of the key features in the draft Bill, which sets the agenda for the next three years on this matter.
July 2019: the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins, made a wildly false statement that the majority of perpetrators of domestic abuse of men are other men. You can find my summary of the relevant data here. The Minister was informed of her error. No correction has been made.
July 2019: Since December 2015 coercive or controlling behaviour has been a crime. Unfortunately, no one knows what constitutes coercive or controlling behaviour. The ONS did some research exploring some alternative questions to those asked in the annual Crime Survey. Unfortunately, as is invariably the case in these matters, their research steering group consisted of the usual suspects. The methodology was flawed and its interpretation incoherent. In order not to arrive at a conclusion which did not suit, they had to adopt a posture that claimed (in effect) that loss of contact with your children is not a harm and fear of it is not a real fear. As far as I’m aware the ONS have not returned to this issue. It is now effectively superseded by the DV Act Guidance in which politicians and the dominant lobby have defined coercive or controlling behaviour without the bother of empirical input.
October 2019: The second reading of the DA Bill. I’m not going to go into chapter & verse, but here’s some major aspects of the Bill: (i) the creation of a worryingly powerful Domestic Abuse Commissioner, chosen, of course, from the most culpable of the usual culprits. (Nicole Jacobs was appointed to the £140,000 pa part-time post nearly two years before the DA Act received Royal Assent – she was thus able to give evidence to the Bill Committe which led to the Act which created her post – how does that work?); (ii) the creation of DAPNs and DAPOs, to make it even easier to eject men from their homes on an allegation – breaking the terms of which is a criminal offence, thus undermining a fundamental principle of law that a man can be given a criminal record without ever being tried or admitting guilt; (iii) prohibition of cross-examination of (alleged) victims by the respondent (viz the accused), often with no professional representation either – a triumph of justice, I’m sure you’ll agree. Victimhood status now automatically confers “special measures” such as being permitted to give evidence by video. (iv) The promise of loads of money, but I invite you to try to discover how much ends up in the hands of organisations that genuinely assist male victims. And all this comes about because of innate and institutionalised prejudice. The Government reiterated in their formal response to the Bill Committee that “We fully recognise that domestic abuse is a gendered crime, which disproportionally affects women” (in case you had any lingering doubt). False.
June 2020: The so-called “Harms Report” is published, actually three reports. This “report” was so bad it defies my vocabulary. So bad, indeed, that Terrence White and Benjamin Garrett applied for a judicial review of it. Unsurprisingly, permission for a judicial review was rejected and the attempt now wallows in perpetual appeal, I believe. Terry summarised the Harms Report thus: “It has no technical merit. It misquoted and mischaracterised the technical papers that it relied upon. Its process was technically flawed to the extent its internally- generated indicia cannot be relied upon.” For further details see Appendix C. Since June 2020 this Harms Report continues to motivate “reforms” to the family courts and ancillary services. I’ll not make any attempt to address those, this post is already overlong.
June 2020: Following the change of Government the DA Bill went through the Public Bill Committee again. I submitted evidence again, this time on behalf of Both Parents Matter Cymru. In practice only those people whom the Bill Committee invite to give evidence in person really matter. 17 people or organisations were invited, every single one feminist or a female victim. They did not even bother to pay lip-service to male victims, and it wasn’t because no representatives of male victims submitted written evidence – there were plenty, and not for the first time. Both male victims and organisations and individuals with professional knowledge submitted on behalf of the male victim. All ignored.
August 2021: Then we get to the Consultation on the draft Guidance, the DA Bill having become an Act by this point. I submitted a very detailed response. I pointed out that the claim “women are more likely to experience repeat victimisation, be physically injured…” was contradicted by the Government’s own Crime Surveys. I note it was dropped from the issued Guidance, so perhaps they actually read my submission. (Stunned, falls off chair). If you want to get a feel for how pervasive is the skewed representation of the whole subject of domestic abuse, I flatter myself that my submission might assist you. The length and detail are the point.
February 2022: Despite all the above, some good people are trying to promote the male victims’ interests by pushing for a strategy to address violence against men and boys.
May 2022: A last ditch attempt to head off the ratification of the Istanbul Convention by writing to my MP arguing that ratification would contravene the 2010 Equality Act – what with it being flagrantly sexist and everything. Fat chance from the Chocolate Teapot.
July 2022: The DA Act Statutory Guidance is published. Rejoice.
24 July 2022: The Istanbul Convention (IC) is ratified. Rejoice some more.
Second post on 24 July 2022: With the ratification of the IC the UK becomes subject to compliance examination by a body called Grevio within the Council of Europe. Wild rejoicing! What could possibly go wrong?
Appendix B: The Ratification of the Istanbul Convention was Carried Out under False Pretences
The last two posts, from 24 July 2022, alluded to an MP’s concerns over ratification of the IC. One of the issues he raised was its applicability to male victims. On 14 July this MP received a reply from a Minister of State at the Home Office. The relevant extract is,
“I would like to reassure you that my ministerial colleagues and I are satisfied that the Convention applies to male victims of these crimes as well as female ones.”
The letter goes on to reassure us that otherwise they “would not have signed up to it and would not now be ratifying it.”
One might suppose that this claim was to head off further questions about the conflict between a Convention which applies to only one sex and the 2010 Equality Act.
The question that arises is this: what was the basis of the Home Office’s claim that the IC also applies to male victims?
As I go to some lengths to show in the last two posts, above, the IC itself gives no hint that it could apply to male victims, and every indication to the contrary. Similarly, Grevio’s Third Report gives no hint of having any interest or concern for male victims.
The Home Office’s claim that the IC also covers male victims is without any visible means of support.
The clincher is this. The IC is a product of the Council of Europe. It must be the Council of Europe that is empowered to give a definitive answer to the key question: Does the IC also apply to male victims?
So we asked. And on 28 July we got an answer by email…
On Thursday, July 28th, 2022 at 10:57, conventionviolence <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you for your inquiry about the “Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence”, also called the Istanbul Convention. Article 2 of the convention sets out its scope: “This Convention shall apply to all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, which affects women disproportionately.” This means that it is only applicable to women victims of violence, including women victims of domestic violence.
However, the preamble of the convention recognizes that “men may also be victims of domestic violence”, and explicitly encourages its state parties to apply its provisions to all victims of domestic violence (Article 2, paragraph 2). Therefore, state parties to the Istanbul Convention are under a legal obligation to apply its provisions to women victims of all forms of violence as covered by the scope of the convention, but it is left to the discretion of each member state whether or not to apply the convention also to male victims of violence.
Kind regards, Secretariat.
The IC does not apply to male victims, and there has never been any reason to think so. The ratification of the IC by the UK was carried out under false pretences and is arguably illegal.
Appendix C: The Government Owns Your Children – They Think
The application for a judicial review of the Harms Report was led by Terry White. I’ll not attempt a summary of the issues he raised due to their length, but you can see for yourself in the following document trail: the Statement of Facts, the Grounds for Judicial Review, the MOJ’s “Grounds for Resistance”, i.e., the basis of their rejection, Terry’s Response to the Grounds for Resistance and his Addendum to that Response, the Bundle relating to the application for appeal, its Skeleton Argument and the key document therefrom, Terry’s summary of the exchanges relating to whether parents have an automatic right to contact with their own children.
Terry summarises the reasons for rejection of his application for a judicial review as follows,
“My submission was rejected at the High Court on the basis of amenability – because the Report has no legal effect. I have appealed to the Court of Appeal. I was listening to this case and heard the “Harm Report” referred to a number of times as if it were a reliable source of information to decide these matters before the court. The use of the Report in the Court of Appeal to effect the outcomes of real cases, and then to shape the recommendations coming from the Court of Appeal for the lower courts, means it is part of the chain to legal effect and there is no opportunity to examine the Report’s merits before legal effect.
On the other hand, if there is an opportunity to examine the technical merits of the Report before legal effect, it would be this case. SO I ask that you alert the Court of Appeal to my JR submission and ask that the technical merits of the Harm Report are examined before any recommendations are made to the lower court. I am very wary that there are real fathers without contact with their children in this matter so whatever is done, those cases must be progressed.
But someone has to look under the hood at this thing, urgently.”
To put it more simply, the claim that the Harms Report has no legal effect is preposterous. It is instrumental in deciding the fate of children and their parents in the family courts. That is legal effect, QED.
But the issue that emerged in Terry’s struggles with the Government Legal Department is the Government’s presumption of powers they do not legally possess in respect of child contact by their natural parents. Here are Terry’s words again…
“In specific regard to the UNCRC review, one of the peculiar things that popped out from my Judicial Review submission was the government’s declaration that ‘There is no automatic right to contact between a parent and child.’” (This is stated in the Grounds for Resistance).
“I put to the Government Legal Department that surely, they meant there is no “absolute” right – that is there is a right but it can be defeated, say for welfare reasons.
The confirmed government position is that, no, there is no “automatic” right – that is to say, there is no right until some permission or authority is granted. In other, more sensational words, a “parenting licence”. To be clear: the UK government is claiming there is no right for a child to have contact, even with their happily married, stable and competent parents, or with his or her mother, unless and until there is some sort of governmental intervention to grant or create that right.
They haven’t provided any source law for this. Just a declaration. Now it’s going to the Court of Appeal.
I argue that this is a repudiation of Articles 7-9 of the UNCRC. I summed up the position in this attachment which formed part of my submission to the Court of Appeal.”
Do note there is nothing sex-specific about this. Children are not their mothers’ any more than they are their fathers’, according to the Government. Only the Government has children now. The children are not yours. They say.