Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts Bill

10 Apr 2019

A Private Members' Bill, put forward by Sheffield Heely MP Louise Haigh under the Ten-Minute Rule, which proposes the removal of rapists' automatic parental rights over children conceived through rape except in exceptional circumstances, has had its first reading in the House of Commons.

The Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts Bill was prompted by the experience of campaigner and survivor Sammy Woodhouse, whose rapist was passed information about and informed of his rights regarding her son last year, while still serving his prison sentence for sexual offences against her.

Katie Russell, spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales, said:

“Rape Crisis has called for a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system in relation to sexual violence and abuse, which is currently and routinely failing victims and survivors, for many years. We have included and continue to include a call for a full review of family courts practice in this demand. We agree with Sammy Woodhouse and Louise Haigh MP that such a review is urgently needed, not just regarding domestic abuse, but also in relation to all sexual violence and abuse.

Sadly, we know Sammy’s experience is far from an isolated incident. Victims and survivors across the country have sought support from our member Rape Crisis Centres around similar experiences. Clear guidance to ensure the consistent and appropriate application of current rules is an urgently needed first step that could be easily taken.

Rape Crisis is currently conducting a piece of research with the University of Warwick on this issue, which is due to be published later this year.

Sammy’s case is further evidence of the widespread, long-term impacts of sexual violence and abuse, and of the trauma it causes, not only for victims and survivors themselves, but for their families and communities."

Read Louise Haigh MP's full statement on the Politics Home website.