Keith Tordoff

Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner candidate, Keith Tordoff MBE, makes commitment to work with agencies to reform the Family Court System

16 November 2021

Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner candidate, Keith Tordoff MBE, has made a commitment to continue the work started by the previous commissioner, to reform the family court system.

During 2020, Julia Mulligan, the then Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, engaged with Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS) to review the family court system.

The result was a lengthy document that highlighted areas that weren’t working well, and it made recommendations. One area of criticism was that it allowed a forum for a victim to be further exposed to their abuser. The recommendations were around further training for Cafcass and judges, and taking greater opportunity to support victims.

Keith Tordoff MBE said:

During her tenure as Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan commissioned Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS) to review the family court system and make recommendations – this was a significant and greatly needed report.

That report captured the views of victims and survivors, support workers, mediators, police, cafcass, and the judiciary. It was published in May 2020, and had raised some clear concerns, along with recommendations.

I want to continue this work, and help take the recommendations from the report move forward.

We need a family court system that is fair, efficient and not open to abuse.

Fair meaning that it must not penalise either side, it must look at matters openly. Key to that is cafcass working fairly with both parents.

It needs to be efficient, currently cases can be in the family court system for years. That’s not acceptable as it places the children in a situation where they don’t know what is going on, or in simple terms it can weigh over both the parents and the children.

And thirdly it needs to not be open to abuse. Part of the IDAS report was around the family court system being used to prolong the abuse from one partner to the other, that’s simply acceptable.

At the time of the report IDAS said that they would, based on the outcome of the report, work to improve the safeguarding of victims, survivors and their children going through the family courts.  Keith Tordoff is giving his committent to support that current work, and to work with IDAS, and other groups to ensure the report recommendations are implemented.

Keith Tordoff MBE said:

There is no doubt that this is a complex and difficult area.

I have personally spoken to abuse victims that were brave enough to make the decision to leave an coercive and abusive partner, only to be put back in front of them in the family courts.

Some of those abuse victims will have lived in that abusive relationship for many years, and people will often say “why didn’t you just leave” but that shows a lack of understanding of how controlling the situations can be.

When a abuse victim makes that decision to leave, and this forms a big part of the fantastic support work that IDAS already does, they should be supported, and helped move from a situation of great uncertainty to something more known to them.

Some will stay in abusive relationships, as they can’t see a way out, or don’t see an exit strategy. Again this area forms the work of IDAS, and needs to be supported.

These victims deserve a system that supports them, doesn’t allow abuse to continue, and allows for a quick route through the family court system with a fair outcome.

The report made recommendation that there was further training giving to the court judges, and to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) – each case has an assigned CAFCASS officer, and they often come from a background of social work. In more complex or serious cases, a solicitor may also be assigned to represent the views of the children.

Keith Tordoff MBE said:

We also need to be mindful of why an individual is within the family court system. Statistics show that the majority of cases involve drugs use from one or both parents.

Of course, some are in the family courts as they can not come to an agreement. The courts already instruct that a couple need to go through mediation before the court system, but perhaps this is an area that needs to be expanded to help reduce the load on the court system.

But if it is being used to continue abuse, then that needs to stop, and also if they are being used to stop contact, when there is no reason to stop contact, that too, must stop.

Keith Tordoff is standing as the only independent candidate in the North Yorkshire, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner elections on the 25 November 2021. He brings to the role both policing experience, and business experience. But more than that, he brings a true passion to the role.

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