I am currently researching how effectively the courts are properly investigating allegations of domestic violence when considering applications for contact having had a recent experience where a court’s failure to do so caused a mother and her children three years of emotional turmoil as she struggled to convince the professionals involved that she was not implacably hostile to contact but had genuine and legitimate child protection concerns. She was only vindicated when some three years later the Fact Finding Hearing was listed and determined. I am reminded of what Dame Butler Sloss said in Re L  2FLR 334 at 341-2
‘If the allegations might have an effect on the outcome, they must be adjudicated upon and found proved or not proved. It will be necessary to scrutinise such allegations which may not always be true or may be grossly exaggerated…In cases of proved domestic abuse, as in cases of other proved harm or risk of harm to the child the court has the task of weighing in the balance the seriousness of the domestic violence, the risks involved, the impact on the child against the positive factors (if any) of contact between the parent found to have been violent and the child. In this context, the ability of the offending parent to recognise his past conduct, be aware of the need to change and make genuine efforts to do so will be likely to be an important consideration.’
I am in contact with Dr Danya Glaser consultant psychiatrist who was instructed by the Official Solicitor at that time to prepare a joint report with Dr J.C. Sturge, to advise on the four appeals with a view to considering the situation further.
If anyone has any similar experiences where the courts are either not listing cases for fact finding hearings in such circumstances or who are accepting “watered down” admissions so as to change significantly the nature of the allegations made thus making them less serious I should be grateful if you would send me details.
June Venters QC