The Domestic Abuse Bill has not gone away. Whilst its 2020 incarnation is technically a new Bill, as Bills are not formally carried forward between Parliaments, it is the same Bill that received much attention in 2019. My precis of its immediate history and main points is here. You can be forgiven for having failed to notice that the resurrected Bill has already sailed through its first and second readings in the House of Commons, the latter on 28th April’20. The Bill is now in the hands of the Public Bill Committee, which body considers amendments tabled by MPs. They are due to report on 25th June’20.
The Public Bill Committee will usually take evidence from other parties, but they have complete discretion from whom they take evidence. Having scrutinised the Bill line by line, and implemented amendments, or not, the Bill moves to the Report/Third Reading stage (sometimes with various other machinations in-between). MPs then have a further opportunity for amendments, though not necessarily on all clauses. Yes, its complicated.
A live listing of Bill documents, including amplifications of proposed amendments, is here.
In particular, MP for Shipley, Mr Philip Davies, has proposed several amendments. You can hear him delivering them during the Second Reading here (go to 15:28:13).
The burden of this post is to urge you to write to your MP along the lines that I have done already, the text of which follows. There is much that a committed MP can do to influence a Bill as it passes through its Committee/Report/Third Reading stages, but there is little chance of this happening in the desired direction if MPs are not made aware of the strength of public feeling on these matters.
The wording is up to you, here’s mine…(NB: you must include your name & address, and state that you are a constituent – you can find contact details for your MP here)…
RE: Seeking your support for Mr Philip Davies’ amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill
Dear Mr / Ms (Your MP’s Name),
I am writing to you as my constituency MP.
I hope that you and your family are keeping well and safe during these challenging times.
I am writing in regard to the Domestic Abuse Bill that is currently making its way through Parliament. In particular I’m writing respecting the amendments Mr Philip Davies MP, has tabled which I fully support. I work with a charity which supports non-resident parents and so I know how destructive are the issues to which he refers. These amendments seek to ensure that the Bill is not gender specific, supporting male and female victims equally, whilst making children’s best interests paramount. The amendments proposed include:
1) Extending the definition of domestic abuse to include parental alienation. This is where one parent deliberately alienates a child from the other parent by misrepresentation, causing serious emotional and psychological damage to the child. The Courts’ obligation to put the interests of the child first cannot be fulfilled whilst parental alienation continues to be unrecognised.
2) Classifying false allegations of domestic abuse as domestic abuse itself. Every year thousands of parents’ lives and reputations are destroyed by malicious allegations. The advantage in court process that such allegations provide to a belligerent ex-partner has made their use endemic, and there is currently no deterrent. By classing false allegations as domestic abuse an essential deterrent would be provided.
3) Extending the definition of domestic abuse to include child contact obstruction: when one parent deliberately and repeatedly prohibits the other parent’s contact with their children without good reason. At present even court ordered contact arrangements are frequently flouted by one parent and this is done with complete impunity as the Courts fail to enforce their own orders. This brings the whole system into disrepute and denies children one half of their parental support, which is known to hugely exacerbate future disadvantage.
I strongly urge you to support these amendments in the interests of children and as a way of making the Bill equitable as befits a democratic country with a world reputation for sound justice and protection of the innocent.
Many thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing your positive response.
Your name & address
You can find alternative, shorter, specimen letters here.
Another issue which Philip Davies raised in his speech during the Second Reading was the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on non-resident parents’ child contact arrangements. An earlier blog related to the survey which charity FNF-BPM Cymru was conducting to gather data on this matter. I have recently made this submission to the HOC Women and Equalities Committee’s call for evidence on behalf of the charity giving the results of the survey, which are stark, if predictable.
Thanks very much for giving us a template, which I used to approach my MP.
This was the response I got from him:
Thank you for contacting me about family justice. I appreciate your concerns. As you may be aware, the family justice system is responsible for making decisions that change lives, and the complex decisions of the court can have far-reaching implications for those involved. We must ensure that the system is delivering the best outcomes for children and families, while protecting those most vulnerable. The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration for the court when making a decision that will affect a child’s life, and the government fully supports the child-centred approach that our family justice system takes. Of course there is no doubt about the importance of fathers in the upbringing of their children, and following a change to the law in 2014, the court must now presume that a parent’s involvement in the child’s life will further the child’s welfare, unless the contrary can be shown. That change was intended to strengthen children’s rights to each parent’s involvement in their life. Courts apply the presumption of parental involvement in a child’s life unless there is risk of harm to the child or the other parent. Orders limiting such involvement to indirect contact are usually reserved for cases where face-to-face contact is deemed unsafe. Such orders are relatively rare and the court will not take the decision lightly. Similarly where parents are in dispute and seek a court decision, the court must decide what form of parental involvement will best meet the child’s welfare needs. The quality of parenting, rather than any particular pattern of it, is the most important thing for a child. Parliament stopped short of introducing a presumption of shared parenting because every family is different, and every child’s needs are different, and the law provides for the maximum flexibility. The government has announced proposals to divorce law which would mean that the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will remain the sole ground for divorce. At the same time the new proposals would remove the need to show evidence of the other spouse’s conduct, or a period of living apart. A new notification process would be introduced to allow one, or possibly both parties, to notify the court of the intention to divorce. Finally, the proposals would remove the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce, which serves no practical purpose. By removing the need for fault, there will no longer be an incentive to make allegations about the others behaviour, something that is very damaging for children. I hope this provides you with some clarity. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me on this important issue.
So, typical politician! Don’t answer the question, no concept of what is ACTUALLY going on, and too busy fucking up the economy to care!
Mine didn’t even acknowledge receipt. The divorce Bill isn’t really about “no fault”, we already have that de facto. It’s actually a unilateral divorce Bill. We will soon have the ex parte divorce.
I would love to support your efforts in regards to the Domestic Violence bill as good as I can.
Could you please give me a call so I can best support you.
Brian from the Glass Bilndspot told me to get in contact with you. I am connected to quite a few people that can help us.
Best of luck with the lobbying. You know you are going to need all the luck going and a lot more besides in order to make any headway against the blockheads who represent the majority of seats in Parliament.
Success is not a realistic prospect. But we need to build a number of people across all, or at least the majority, of constituencies, who will frequently lobby. The more achievable objective over a number of years of this is stretching the Overton Window so at least a public debate is started. I have never expected significant progress in my lifetime. We are facing both innate psychological dispositions born of evolution and also learnt, reinforced and endemic prejudice backed by entrenched vested interests and unrevealed political motivations. But success over a number of decades IS possible, especially as the birth rate crashes, marriage dies, and even cohabitation starts to become unpopular.
You are dead right. It is easy to become depressed over the size of the empathy gap, its intractable nature and the incredible inability of the majority to acknowledge or even see its existence. But a steady drip of water will eventually wear away even the toughest stone. Maybe one day a few thousands of years hence, the stone will disappear.
May I suggest using this (much more direct & straightforward) link for getting contact details for your MP?
I suppose it could be worse. Over here:
…It’s about as frictionless as ExtraExtraRough Sandpaper to look up MP details for this.
It’s just embarrassing.
Thank you so much for this. It is difficult to follow what happens in Parliament and so groups with the money and staff to lobby are very practiced at using this knowledge to get details changed. Often it is apparently small details that make all the difference. Particularly as the language in Bills and thence Acts often has different meaning to the words as commonly understood. Very grateful for your time and help in this. I hope many use the examples you have provided.