Leading women’s groups, including Rape Crisis England & Wales and Rights of Women, have today (19th November 2020) written to Alex Chalk MP to raise concerns about the lack of diverse representation on the panel advising the review of the presumption of parental involvement.
The Ministry of Justice announced they would review the presumption of parental involvement on 9th November 2020.
The review is the result of the Harm report published in June 2020, which found evidence suggesting the presumption can reinforce the pro-contact culture in the Family Court and recommended a review to consider its impact.
Organisations concerned about the membership of the advisory panel to the review have written to the Minister to raise their concerns, in particular that:
- there is no continuity between the membership of the panel that prepared the Harm report and the panel informing the review despite the Harm report panel having already considered a significant amount of evidence on the issue
- there is no representation from specialist sexual violence or domestic abuse support services, lawyers or academics
- survivors from minoritised backgrounds, deaf and disabled people and those holding other protected characteristics are not directly represented despite the obvious need to include their voices and ensure their specific needs and experience of marginalisation are at the heart of the review
- there is no representation from a group representing the views of mothers despite them being significantly impacted by the outcome of the review
Katie Russell for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
"Given the Harm Report found evidence of the Family Courts facilitating access for fathers who are sexually abusing their children, it's deeply worrying to us that sexual violence and abuse specialists haven't been included in this panel.
It's essential too that the experiences of Black, Disabled and other minoritised and marginalised survivors and mothers be represented on the panel if the review is to be truly meaningful and effective.
If the Government fails to fulfil its promise of diversity on this review panel, it seriously risks undermining the credibility of this crucial work."