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Domestic Abuse Family Lawyers Training Programme

“I was told by my solicitors that the Judge had made it clear that by using the screens I will prove that I am unable to co-parent properly,  in which case he would remove both children from me because I would be reinforcing my daughter’s fear of her father.”  

*Laura, Survivor supported by VOICES 

“On a further hearing after the fact finding, where I had to again give evidence, I was advised that I could give evidence via video link ... I was told that this was absolutely available to me but my solicitor urged me to give evidence in person using the screen as again the judge being able to see and hear me clearly would assist in their decision making.” 

*Claire, Survivor supported by VOICES  

*not the survivor’s real name 

“…Family courts [are] not being set up to deal with domestic abuse, in particular due to [a] lack of awareness of perpetrator psychology and behaviour.”

Survivor, Every Story Matters  

“Cafcass, social services and the family courts need some urgent training on anti social personalities and abusive traits and behaviour.”

Survivor, Every Story Matters  

“…[the Family Courts] can be too optimistic of the ability of an abusive person to be a healthy parent.”

Survivor, Every Story Matters  


 

The family courts are traumatising places for most survivors, who often describe their experience as being worse than the abuse they have experienced to date, or see it as forming part of an ongoing pattern of abuse.

At SafeLives we hear so much from survivors about the need for better understanding of the dynamics of abuse. Last year the Family Harms Panel report recommended a wide range of training “for all participants in the family justice system, including: a cultural change programme to introduce and embed reforms to private law children’s proceedings and help to ensure consistent implementation”.

Our own response to the Review highlighted the need for specialist training across the whole family justice system and as a result SafeLives is developing a culture change training programme, kindly funded by the Legal Education Foundation, for lawyers who practice in family law.  

We want to see a reformed and informed family justice system where survivors of domestic abuse have faith in the system - where the safety of adult and child survivors is paramount and where better, safer social justice outcomes are achieved.  

 

The Domestic Abuse Family Lawyers Training Programme is designed to:

  • improve understanding of coercive control amongst family legal professionals, who are advising survivors of domestic abuse;

  • improve trust in the family justice system by ensuring the safety of adult and child victims is prioritised during the court process;

  • create a replicable culture change training programme for family legal professionals which could be rolled-out nationally.

 

A better understanding of the manipulative behaviours, particularly coercion and control, used by perpetrators, and of the reasons why victims do not leave relationships, is essential for professionals associated with the family court process.

Much more than a training course, this culture change programme will have the power to improve outcomes for survivors, as lawyers are better equipped to advise their clients, and restore trust in the family justice system as survivors feel believed and protected.

We are proud to be working with VOICES who are our specialist partner ensuring survivor voice guides the development of the training.

An Advisory Group will input into the programme throughout the two and a half years of the project and will include domestic abuse organisations, family legal professionals, academics, and representatives from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office.

The training will be subject to an evaluation and will be open to solicitors and barristers practicing in family law in the following areas: London, Bristol, Bath and West Sussex.

 

Contact:

Jessica Asato, Head of Public Affairs and Policy at SafeLives

jessica.asato@safelives.org.uk

Emma Robinson, Head of Learning and Development at SafeLives

emma.robinson@safelives.org.uk

For more information on this programme for family lawyers, please get in touch.