Domestic Violence and Child Protection: Directions for Good Practice

By Cathy Humphreys; Nicky Stanley | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Damned If You Do
and Damned If You Don't?
The Contradictions Between
Private and Public Law

Christine Harrison


Introduction

The Children Act 1989 in England and Wales aspired to provide a unified legal framework for making decisions about children's welfare (Cretney, Masson and Bailey-Harris 2003), with the same principles applying across the spheres of private law (dealing with matters of children's residence and contact after parental separation) and public law (including issues of significant harm and child protection). An overarching checklist established the child's welfare as paramount in all proceedings and implied consistent treatment of issues affecting children's development and well-being, whenever concerns arise. Before the Act's implementation, it was argued that domestic violence was not adequately addressed in the primary or accompanying secondary legislation. A plethora of concerns has persisted that, despite its intentions, this failure of the Children Act 1989 to address the impact of domestic violence has compromised children's welfare and women's safety (Hester and Radford 1996; Radford, Sayer and AMICA 1999; Saunders and Barron 2003). Nor is it considered that these have been adequately acknowledged by the Children Act 2004 and other recent legal and policy changes, which are thought insufficient to prevent children from being harmed during contact with abusive parents (Saunders 2004).

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