Tory MP abused by ex-husband backs report urging law change on parental contact

The law must change to stop “privileging” a father’s right to contact with his children over the safety and wellbeing of domestic abuse victims, a report has urged.

The call is supported by Conservative MP Kate Kniveton who has previously spoken out about the abuse she suffered at the hands of ex-husband Andrew Griffiths, and her fight against a court ruling that he should still have direct contact with their child.

A family court ruling in 2021 found that Mr Griffiths, a former small business minister, had – on the balance of probabilities – pressurised Ms Kniveton into engaging in sexual activity as well as raping her multiple times and used “coercive and controlling behaviour” against her.

Kate Kniveton spoke out about her case in a bid to help others (Aaron Chown/PA)
Kate Kniveton spoke out about her case in a bid to help others (Aaron Chown/PA)

Earlier this year Mr Griffiths made a bid for weekly supervised contact with their child, who he previously saw once per week via videolink for 30 minutes.

But a High Court judge ruled he could have no direct contact with his child in the “reasonably short term”, saying it would be in the child’s best interests to only have contact with their father through letters for that period of time.

The judge said Mr Griffiths had accepted most of the findings made against him, except the finding that he had raped Ms Kniveton.

Ms Kniveton had waived her right to anonymity, saying she hoped her case had shed light on the “often hidden family court system” and that publicity around her experiences would help empower others who are affected.

She has insisted it should not have to be “exceptional to shield a child from an abusive parent” as she called for parents found to have been abusive to automatically “forfeit the right to contact” in order to “prioritise the safety of our children”.

It is expected the outcome of the review will be published this summer.

A report from the Right to Equality organisation, which campaigns for legal reform to support the rights of women and girls, said it wants to ensure the current “presumption of contact is fully and finally removed”.

The report, being launched at an event in Parliament on Monday evening, said: “It is imperative that changes are made to law and policy to ensure that the family court stops privileging men’s right to contact over the safety and wellbeing of adult and child victims of domestic abuse.”

Ms Kniveton told the PA news agency: “It’s clear we need legislative change to create a safer environment for children.

“I am supporting Right to Equality’s campaign as an ambassador for a presumption of no child contact in cases involving domestic abuse, opposing the current pro-contact culture that fails to protect survivors and their children. We believe no child should be required to undergo contact with an abusive parent.

“It’s time to send a clear message: abusers, regardless of their status, forfeit the right to contact if found guilty of abuse. I implore the Government to act swiftly and prioritise the safety of our children.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Children’s safety is absolutely paramount and judges already have extensive powers to block parental involvement where there is a risk to the child.

“We are continuing to review the approach to parental access to make sure all children are kept from harm.”

The report comes days after the Government tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to ensure child rapists have their parental responsibilities automatically removed.

The change will apply in cases where the perpetrator attacks any child, the Ministry of Justice said.

The Government said the amendment, tabled on Friday, builds on Jade’s Law, introduced through the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which sees parental responsibility automatically suspended in cases where an offender has killed a partner or ex-partner they have children with.

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