Urgent Need for Perpetrator Programmes in Private Law Proceedings
I regularly attend courts in the Northwest representing both perpetrators and victims of domestic abuse and violence in applications to spend time with children. I have only recently fully noted the impact of the fact that CAFCASS is no longer able to refer perpetrators of domestic abuse to DAPP. I was aware that CAFCASS were no longer able to do so since the end of May 2022, but I had not fully appreciated the implications of that. I was under the mistaken impression that those whom findings of domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour had been made in the family court who were willing to engage in such work could refer themselves and fund the programmes themselves, in fact I had referred a client in May to do the same. It has only come to my attention this week that providers of such course are not able to accept such referrals, the reason given to me being ‘that without a Cafcass officer allocated to the case, and service level agreements between the services for information sharing about risk, it would be immensely dangerous to proceed.’ I do not think that legal professionals are fully aware of this, I certainly was not.
It is now evident after trying to source such courses that this is impossible. However, all the cases referred to above included section 7 reports from either local authorities or Cafcass, and in 2 cases section 37 reports, in which it was recommend that the fathers undertake this work. There is a general lack of awareness that it is not possible for people to attend such course unless they are involved on a statutory basis with a local authority which has their own programme that they fund or are open to Probation. Most of the parents, usually fathers in my experience, in such private law findings of fact only proceed to such findings of fact where such work is ordered when there hasn’t been probation involvement as the perpetrator has not been prosecuted let alone convicted and the local authority has usually ended involvement with the family on the basis that the father is not having contact and as a result the children are ‘safeguarded‘ by their mothers and it is not necessary for them to be involved.
Even in cases where someone has been convicted of a violent offence and served a custodial sentence, it is often the case that the work that they have completed is inadequate or has made no discernible difference in terms of their attitude towards their victim or having an appreciation of the effect that such abuse can have on their children whether directly witnessed or not. The courses, if any, undertaken as part of the criminal justice system do not assist the perpetrator to have any understanding of how that mother’s feelings towards them makes it difficult for them to promote or accept contact or their child’s feelings towards them. It is often only when they then make an application to the family court that they begin to appreciate the shift in thinking that is required to make contact free from harm for their children.
The result of this is that since June, from my own personal experience only, there will be tens of children from my cases alone, and hundreds if not thousands nationwide, who will not be able to have safe contact any time soon. This failure to fund or refer to such services means that perpetrators who want to change their behaviour cannot change and effectively means that they will continue to behave in the same damaging way to society for years to come. Secondly that children are being denied the opportunity to have some form of contact with a parent, usually fathers, which if their behaviour was modified, could take place.
I have been in contact with RESPECT a charity working to end domestic abuse this week to discuss what is available and what can be done. They are in the process of communicate their concerns to both the MOJ and also the justice minister. I suggest that it would be helpful for anyone who has experience of such difficulties to share their experiences with them at:
Further information about the urgent need for provision can be seen in the article below: