Today (Friday, 10 December), in a landmark decision, the Court of Appeal gave permission for the press to publish findings made in family proceedings that while they were living together, former MP, Andrew Griffiths abused his wife, Kate Griffiths MP.
The findings against Andrew Griffiths are set out in the judgment following a lengthy finding of fact hearing – the judgement of which can be found here.
“I am so proud to be solicitor for the inspiring Kate Griffiths, MP.
“The court has confirmed in its judgement that Kate’s ex-husband, Andrew Griffiths, subjected her to the vilest abuse, which included raping her whilst she was asleep, spitting in her face, subjecting her to physical and abuse and coercively controlling her. Mr Griffiths used his position of power to cause the utmost physical and emotional distress to Ms Griffiths.
“Throughout the hearing, Ms Griffiths has shown tremendous courage and, now the findings have been made public, is highlighting how important it is for victims of domestic abuse to speak out against their abusers.
“This ruling comes after the long-awaited Domestic Abuse Act 2021 came into force on 29 April this year. As we have seen in Kate Griffiths MP’s case, the act enables the family courts to provide enhanced protections for victims of abuse, and many of the new laws have been applied over the past few months during the matrimonial and children proceedings.
“Being abused by a partner or family member is a frightening experience and the introduction of the act has come as a welcome relief to the millions of victims across the country whose circumstances will most likely have been worsened as a result of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.”
In accordance with the law, family cases are conducted behind closed doors. However, an independent journalist, the Press Association, Rights of Women and the Association of Lawyers for Children intervened in the case to ensure the judgment was made public.
“It’s crucial that justice is seen to be done, as it has in this case. My client supported the publication of the judgment and gave her own statement to the press, which were important factors in the court deciding to give permission to publish the details of the proceedings. In most cases, these matters remain entirely private and when judgments are issued, they will be anonymised.”
Barrister, Dr Charlotte Proudman, also represented Kate Griffiths, MP during the proceedings.
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021
The new act has broadened the legal definition of domestic abuse and provides enhanced protection and support to the millions of people who experience domestic violence, while also providing greater punishment to the perpetrators.
For the first time in history, the statutory definition of domestic abuse has been widened to incorporate a range of abuses beyond physical violence, including emotional abuse, coercive or controlling behaviour and economic abuse. As part of this, children who have seen, heard or otherwise suffered the impact of abuse can now be regarded as victims of domestic violence.
It also recognises and legislates against new forms of abuse, such as revenge porn and the sharing of indecent images, and creates a new offence of ‘non-fatal strangulation’, which carries a specific criminal offence punishable by five years’ imprisonment.
Loopholes that have previously allowed offenders to go unpunished have been closed, with new laws introduced on the so-called ‘rough-sex gone wrong defence’ involving death or serious injury.
The act also recognises that domestic abuse is not confined to the home environment and that victims are often most at risk when they leave their abuser’s house – meaning they are still protected even if they do not or no longer live with the perpetrator.
Local authorities in England are now required to provide the services and safety that victims need wherever they are in the country, including support to victims and their children in refuges or other safe accommodation.
Further actions introduced include a statutory presumption that domestic violence victims are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts, such as being able to provide evidence via video link. Offenders are also now prevented from cross-examining their victims in person during family and civil court proceedings.