The Family Court Domestic Abuse Scandal - Exposed in Numbers

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

By Brian Hudson 27th July 2020

I was asked to shed some light on the statistical realities versus the statistical narrative surrounding domestic abuse, which has long dominated the debate over reform of the family justice system. Here I share the key findings, which have been identified through simple application of published statistics, logic and basic mathematical calculations. Having carried out this analysis, I find it surprising that with no funding or academic resources to call on – to produce these insights – as to why it seems to never have occurred to anyone to get to grips with it before now? Particularly those in the Ministry of Justice, the Police and in Government, all of whom have such deep pockets and so plentiful a supply of highly intelligent resources to call upon, and that is before considering the fact that they have ready access to the data at the very point of collection, so could very easily have been tracking this all along to aid their decision making, in the genuine best interests of children & families. The cynic in me asks, what possible reason could there be to not record the data correctly, then publish it transparently? I have yet to meet anyone involved professionally in any aspect of family law who is lacking in intelligence, so I can only conclude that the absence of transparency, and the desire to make critical and life changing decisions with regards to children and their parents, with what you will see from reading through this document amounts to nothing less than a scandalous and deeply harmful false narrative, is rooted in corrupted financial vested interests. I challenge those professionals involved, to demonstrate rationally, factually and with evidence, that the quite extraordinary lengths they have gone to in preventing transparency and resisting reform over the last three decades, could be motivated by anything other than that.

For those who may wish to use this document in their own work, they have my endorsement provided I am referenced as the author, and it is not for financial gain. An email address is contained in the footer, for any notifications, or even if someone has challenges to the calculations or logic which have been applied.

This analysis is provided in the absence of clear data being made available by The Ministry of Justice, who continue to fail to share any data that would present the public and parliament with a clear picture of both the levels of service being delivered and the outcomes for service users, this is despite repeated criticisms stretching back many years, met with repeated promises to do better, which never materialise. More importantly, is this data could support children, whose best interests they are mandated to serve, yet are evidently failing on a scale that is almost unimaginable, and continues to escalate at a frightening pace and with severe social consequences.

Crime and domestic abuse data

Headline crime and domestic abuse/violence (DA/DV) data, recorded by police and via the national crime survey, carried out annually by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), is frequently relied upon by mainly women’s domestic abuse charities/groups and the media to sensationalise and exaggerate the issue of domestic abuse and present a gendered imbalance in the prevalence. Indeed, the UK Statistics Authority upheld a complaint about the claim by women’s domestic abuse charities and advocating parliamentarians that the “overwhelming majority of Domestic Abuse is perpetrated by males against female victims”, despite upholding the complaint, this very same rhetoric is now more mainstream than it has ever been.

1. According to the ONS National Crime Survey for England & Wales 2019[1], 2.4m adults experienced DA last year. That number equates to 5.7% of the 39.75m adult population aged 16 to 74, but now factor in that the lower figure of 4.2% is recorded as “partner abuse” as opposed to abuse between other family relationships (such as between step siblings for example). We then further consider that 60% of reports of DA are couples with no children in the home (NCS 2019), therefore this survey for family law purposes gives us an assumed prevalence of 40% of 4.2% of the adult population aged 16 to 74 (which totals 39.75m) which comes to approx. 0.67m. The NCS 2019 then shows that approx. two thirds of victims are female, and one third are male, which amounts to approx. 0.42m female v’s 0.25m male.

1.1 Police recorded 1.3m domestic abuse related incidents and crimes in 2019. Of these, 746,219 were recorded as actual crimes in the report rather than an incident; the distinction here is whether the incident being reported meets the threshold of a crime having been committed, i.e. a report of physical violence, sexual assault or stalking, versus an incident where a couple may have had a heated disagreement that resulted in a call being made to the police by a concerned neighbour, or just a neighbour annoyed by the amount of noise they are making.

We know that we need to dilute this for family law purposes by 60% (because that, according to ONS, is the percentage of partnerships with dependent children that fall into scope) so by doing that the number falls to 298,487 recorded as actual crimes, but of course yet to be tested on evidence or even have charges brought.

1.2 There are 8m families with dependent children, but of this 1.7m are lone parent families and 90% of lone parent families are headed by a mother (ONS Census). However, one needs to acknowledge that of those lone parent families, a significant proportion will have intimate relationships but are not living together, and it is just as likely there will be domestic abuse in those relationships as there is in cohabiting couple relationships, and so they will take up an equal proportion of the reports to the police, but would not take up an equal proportion of family court time because they are not jointly responsible for the same children.

a. Therefore, in 8m families, 298,487 domestic abuse crimes are recorded, which equates to 3.7%, not diluting at all for the likelihood that some of these crimes would not be related to the couple, or a parent on a child, but perhaps between step siblings for example. But let’s dilute that again by 21% (the number of single parent households) because in theory at least, DA/DV recorded amongst lone parent households should not end up in family court unless its public family law, as there would be no parent v’s parent custody battle over the children. Therefore, that gives us a relatively reliable prevalence figure of 2.94% and the attributable recorded crime figure should be in the region of 235,804.

b. Next, consider that individual households will report more than one crime, indeed, from our survey of victims of false allegations in family court, a sample of over 200 participants, we found that the average number of police reports made against them was 7.13. If we were to extrapolate that out to all of those claiming false allegations in family court, circa 30,000 plus last year, we are talking about perhaps as many as 213k false reports of crime which are not only being recorded and then not expunged, but also they are not subsequently reversed to be assigned as a crime committed by the person making the allegations against the person they have falsely accused.

c. This implies, that as many as 90% of crime reports the police are burdened with from the relevant population pool are false, and made for the purposes of family court litigation. Further, if as many as 213k DA recorded crimes are both false and attributable to the ‘active in Family Court’ pool of the population, then the way Family Court is operating is the root cause for 28.54% of all police time taken up by reporting domestic abuse crimes. However, until we are able to have reliable data from source to back up any such claims (and I believe collection of that data at source is easily achievable at very low cost), I will exclude this from the calculations altogether to avoid any contention.

d. We are now left to work with a very generous figure of 2.94% DA/DV flagged crime prevalence reported to police, which would qualify as relationships that might end up in a family court if there were a separation, but only IF each person reporting only reported once in the year.

e. Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of MoJ Family Division, commented that the prevalence of DA/DV allegations in family court is 62% of all private law cases[2]. That is a difference of 59.06%, or just under a multiple of 21 x the national prevalence. Doesn’t seem feasible does it?

f. So, we delve deeper, the figure of 746,219 is for reported crimes. This figure drops dramatically for charges being brought on the basis of sufficient evidence to approximately 10% of reports, with a conviction rate of about 70% of those charged, which gives us an approximate conviction rate of just 0.14% (of the population) where there was sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. That conviction rate is for all domestic abuse related crime, so it must be diluted again to take into account DA where there are no children, which takes us to 0.056%. But that’s not all, we must dilute this figure once again to take into account single parent households, and that brings us to a final figure of around 0.044% prevalence. Therefore, evidence sufficient to secure a criminal conviction among households you would assume to have reason to bring up DA/DV allegations in family court is seemingly over exaggerated by as much as a multiple of 1,400 (or in percentage terms 140,000%), based simply on the 62% figure given to us by Andrew McFarlane which I referenced in (e) above. Once again, to reach this level of DA/DV prevalence legitimately is, quite simply, not feasible!

g. Vested interest groups, such as; family law solicitors, women’s domestic abuse charities and a number of high-profile female MP’s; make the claim that family court allegations are true at the same rate as guilty verdicts in the criminal justice system. Yet in the family law system, despite part 17.6 of the family law procedures, any form of consequence for false allegations of any kind of abuse is verging on non-existent. Put simply, there is no deterrent, and accusers quite literally have all to gain and nothing of any consequence to lose! You could even go so far as to call this an ‘Invitation to Commit Perjury’ with a get out of jail free card which is likely made out of gold, and encrusted with diamonds for good measure.

h. The Police Crime Report[3] tells us that the conviction rate is approx. 70% for domestic abuse flagged crime, however it is useful to note that the Crown Prosecution Service reports a conviction rate of 76%[4] for these crimes, whereas Refuge charity, for example, report a ‘success rate’ for cases where they provide advocacy support for “victims” of just 40%, leaving a failure rate of 60% on all cases they manage to persuade the CPS to take to trial through the criminal justice system, 841 cases in total last year, with 498 NOT GUILTY but still referred to as “perpetrators” in their annual report of 2018[5]. If Women’s Aid federated charities are pursuing convictions at a similar rate to Refuge, these figures are merely the tip of the iceberg!

This appears more than just a little suspicious effort of Refuge, Women’s Aid and other domestic abuse charities, but also seems to explain the dilution in overall conviction rate, while calling into question the involvement of these charities and their seemingly vigilante style approach to procurement & coaching of new “victims”. Add to this, the potential undermining of the system to pervert the course of justice and materially impact child safety & wellbeing, not to mention the mental health of targeted innocent parents and their close support network, should they be fortunate enough to have one. Please take note of these recent tweets from Refuge and Women’s Aid.

2. The combined annual reports of Cafcass[6] and Cafcass Cymru[7] in 2018/19 tell us that they had circa 99,294 children in active ‘contact dispute’ cases in private family law in that year, and they state this is a 5.6% increase on the previous year. Comparing to the 2005/06 annual report that shows a 62.14% increase, despite both the divorce and birth rates declining over the same time period AND despite there being a decline of 30% in the national prevalence of domestic abuse crimes since 2005 (which would be more than 45% decline if we took away allegations generated for family court litigation purposes), with a steady year on year decline all the way through to 2019[8]. As I write, Cafcass have just published figures for year to March 2020, showing yet another year on year increase in cases of 4.1%.

Of course, it makes perfect sense that the rate of domestic abuse crimes would fall over this time period, because of successes coming from the investments made into awareness and support. But the rhetoric of those benefitting the most from the dramatically increased funding over the course of those years (namely Women’s Aid and Refuge), is that we have had an explosion of domestic abuse, perhaps as a result of those investments, even though the crime figures and social markers tell us the polar opposite. It simply cannot be both, so which is true? Well, neither Women’s Aid or Refuge have been required to evidence their claims, so it seems to stand to reason that they have simply made them up and been believed, with the media complying due to the sheer scale of investment these organisations are making into advertising.

3. Let’s make an assumption that DA/DV allegations made in family court would legitimately have a 10 x multiple of the overall national prevalence, which is driving those relationships to failure, that seems quite a generous multiple.

This gives us a 0.44% legitimate prevalence of Domestic Abuse which would mean that of 105k children overseen by Cafcass, the likelihood is that only 462 of them have genuinely been exposed to domestic abuse/violence in a given year. Tragic as that is for those children and their parent that was a victim, it also tells us that as many as 104,538 children (99.56%) have likely been exposed to Parental Alienation (PA). (The link being made between false allegations and PA here is because the only feasible purpose for allegations to be made in these cases is with the intention of severely restricting, or denying altogether, contact between the accused parent and the children. Therefore, PA through unjustified contact denial, at the very least, also giving the opportunity to inflict further aspects of PA on the children without any restriction). If this seems too low, then let’s multiply the prevalence from the conviction rate by 100 rather than by 10 (even though doing so takes quite a stretch of the imagination), this still leaves us with 95.6% of the 105k children exposed (or at least potentially exposed) to PA, so that comes to 100,380 children denied a parent for an indeterminate period of time, and often permanently, while very likely being emotionally/psychologically abused with the blessing of family court and supporting services, in the year of 2018/19 alone.

4. The figure for the volume of children affected should not be compared with the total number of dependent children in the population, but rather it should be mapped against the birth rate, which in 2018 was 657k. This is because every year we are adding more children into the pool (and of course at the other end children are maturing out of the system when they reach 18 at the latest), and the experiences of those children are all too often drawn out over many years and even into their adult lives. Comparing against the birth rate, 15.9% of children came under Cafcass oversight in 2018/19 in private law cases (plus an extra 4.5% in public law – totalling 20.4% of all children through family court), while the numbers indicate that at least 15.3% of all children are being actively alienated through family court processes each year, and doubtless many more outside of the FC process. According to the figures in Cafcass Annual Reports in the 7 years between 2013 & 2019, growth in cases amounts to 42.7%, which gives a year on year growth rate of 6.1%. It is perhaps no surprise then, that the NHS report[9] that 1 in 8 of the nation’s children between 5 & 19 have a mental health disorder, where in 2002 that figure was already raising alarms at 1 in 11, but is now on track to be 1 in 5 by 2035. The No.1 most prevalent adverse childhood experience attributed to this rise, is parental separation and the consequences of that.

As conditions in our family law framework, with the pending introduction of the Domestic Abuse Bill, seem set for even more leniency towards false reporting, coupled with even greater restrictions placed on parents facing allegations of abuse proving their innocence, the forecast looks very bleak indeed for a continuation of this year on year growth, and so within 18 years, we will see at least half of all children passing through this system, with the ever worsening social markers that go along with this, continuing to spiral. At what point will the professionals in the family law industry be content with the level of destruction being caused, or is their desire for destruction simply insatiable?

On the specific topic of false reporting, examining that further lends yet more weight to the argument that the overwhelming majority of allegations of abuse in family court are false, and therefore the reasons