Guest post: "Children are at terrible risk if the family courts don't put their safety first" (Warning: upsetting content)
Today, parliament will debate Women's Aid Child First campaign, which calls for the family court process to be made safer for women and children survivors of domestic abuse. Here, Claire Throssell, whose sons were murdered by their father, makes a plea for children's safety to be put before the wishes of abusive parents (Trigger warning: upsetting content)
Posted on: Wed 20-Jan-16 10:04:42
(108 comments )
I'm sharing my story in support of the Women's Aid Child First campaign, which calls for children's safety to be placed above the desires of an abusive parent for contact with their child. I want to highlight the catastrophic consequences that can occur when the family court judiciary does not do this.
It took just 15 minutes on the 22nd October, 2014, for my life and heart to be broken completely beyond repair. I had warned those involved with my case that my happy, funny boys would be killed by their own father; I was right.
My boys were both with their father on that October day, and at around 6.30pm he enticed Paul, nine, and Jack, 12, up to the attic, with the promise of trains and track to build a model railway.
When the boys were in the attic, he lit 16 separate fires around the house, which he had barricaded, so my sons could not get out and the firemen could not get in.
Only 15 minutes later, at 6.45pm, the doorbell rang at my mum's. (We were staying there temporarily after the separation.)
"It's the boys, they must be early," my mum said - but I knew that wasn't right. The boys would have run into the house and straight into my arms; they always did after a visit to their dad. They were frightened of him - he was a perpetrator of domestic abuse. The statutory agencies involved in our case knew this.
I opened the door. Blue lights were flashing.
"There's been an incident at your former home; the boys have been involved in a fire."
I want to help other families going through the family courts and trying to escape domestic abuse. I want to ensure all children enjoy a safe future. It's too late for my boys, but not too late for others.
Running into the hospital, the first thing I saw was Paul receiving CPR. A doctor, drenched in sweat and exhausted, told me they were withdrawing treatment.
I held Paul in my arms. I begged him to try, to stay, to not leave me.
He looked at me, smiled, and the life left his beautiful blue eyes. His hair was wet with my tears as I kissed his nose. Then Paul, my boy, was taken out of my arms and into another room. There was no further chance of touching him; his little body was now part of a serious crime enquiry.
Detectives arrived and informed me that my former husband was responsible for the fire, and that he'd also died. All this time I wasn't allowed to see Jack, as they were still fighting to save him. Thankfully, he never knew that Paul had died. He'd tried to save his little brother.
The police later disclosed that Jack was still conscious when carried out of the fire and told them: "My dad did this and he did it on purpose." This was taken as his dying testimony.
Jack clung to life for five days but his battle was too big for him to fight. His body had suffered 56% burns. On the 27th October, he too died in my arms after suffering a cardiac arrest due to his horrific injuries.
No more children should die at the hand of a parent. Social services and Cafcass (which represents children in Family Court cases) were found lacking in their duty of care to Jack and Paul. They offered little or no support to me in the months leading up to their murder. Failings have been highlighted; lessons must be learned.
Jack and Paul's father was a known abuser. One official involved in the case refused to assess him alone, because she didn't feel safe doing so. Why, then, was he allowed unsupervised, unsafe contact with my boys? Even though we'd separated, the abuse hadn't ended. This was not taken on board by the Family Courts. He wanted to take everything from me, and he did. The boys' right to safety - to life - should have outweighed their father's desire for contact.
I want to help other families going through the Family Courts and trying to escape domestic abuse. I want to ensure all children enjoy a safe future. Every child matters. It's too late for my boys, but not too late for others. The Women's Aid Child First campaign will help protect other children.
To sign the Child First petition and call for children's safety to be put back at the heart of the family courts, go to you.38degrees.org.uk/p/childfirst
To find out more about the Child First campaign, and download the report 'Nineteen Child Homicides', go to www.womensaid.org.uk/childfirst
By Claire Throssell
I couldn't read that post in one go, it was too horrific. Unimaginable. My condolences to Claire.
I've just listened to an interview with Claire on Woman's Hour. I'm so sorry this happened to you and your beautiful boys. Going to sign the petition now.
I never sign these online petitions, but this is worth the spam. Terrible. So, so sorry.
I have signed and shared.
Your beautiful children... I am so, so sorry.
What a horrific, sad, sad story. I have signed.
Horrific. I'm so very sorry - your poor brave boys.
Surely MN HQ could sticky this petition somewhere as well as this thread being here? I imagine so many people don't read the guest post that it could well be missed.
there are no words to express for what the op and her DC had to go through.
Still sobbing over this. Cafcaas weren't interested in the safety of my daughters either. I will never be able to relax during contact. Their father is too unpredictable. Signing.
Signed and shared on FB.
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for trying to help stop these awful crimes.
I watched you this morning, I've signed. Your story is horrific but sadly not isolated. I am so very very sorry for your loss. It should never have happened. I remember your story in the news at the time. The warning signs were there. He should never have unsupervised contact.
contact needs to be in the childrens interest, not the parents.
I'm so sorry it's you and your babies having to fight for others
Signed. So sorry for everything you went through
Signed. I am so sorry for your loss, I hope that this campaign helps protect other women and children.
There's just no words to convey how sorry I am this happened to your poor boys. Absolutely broke my heart to read this, it made me cry.
I'm signing. And I will ask DP to sign too when he gets home and share it on his Twitter.
I don't know you and I never knew your boys, but I feel devastated to read of your experiences. No one should ever have to go through this, and I ache to even think of the "what if's" and everything that went wrong here, despite your best efforts to protect your sons.
One of my former teachers did this to his very young child - he had abducted her and they were missing for some time. When he was discovered, unarmed police went to the door to tell him that the game was up. They had advised his former partner and her mother, who hadn't seen her daughter in several months. They allowed him to go and get her from the back garden. He was prepared. She never made it out alive. Every time I think of it I can hardly believe it, and it's just too common.
Your poor boys. My heart goes out to you. I am so, so sorry for what you had taken from you. I can only barely imagine for a few tiny milliseconds what you had to live through and have to live with. Signed and shared.
Those poor boys. I'm so sorry this happened to you and that your concerns about your boys safety were blatantly ignored. It's shocking. I've signed.
So sorry for your loss.
But SS fail on many counts.
Sometimes they aren't vigilant enough. Sometimes they are over vigilant and over cautious.
In our county , They've done serious damage to 3 families, where it turned out there was no problem, no issue, no abuse. Just mistakes.
So, I think it's SS and their services, that require investigation.
But even if an investigation did happen, nothing really changes, does it?
I am so sorry for the horrific loss you have suffered and the way in which it was all handled. I hope everyone gets a chance to see this and signs, you are very strong and brave to come forward for the sake of others.
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