Tory MP abused by ex-husband calls for parental involvement reform

Kate Kniveton urged the Government to change the law to support a presumption of no contact.

Kate Kniveton
Kate Kniveton (David Woolfall/UK Parliament/PA)

The ex-wife of a former Conservative minister who was found to have raped and physically abused her has said she was “dangerously close” to being let down by the legal system.

Conservative MP Kate Kniveton (Burton) is calling on the Government to change the law surrounding parental involvement and support a presumption of no contact between an abusive parent and their children.

There is no blanket ban on a domestic abuse perpetrator having contact with their children, which Ms Kniveton said puts children and victims at risk.

Justice minister Mike Freer confirmed a review into the presumption of parental involvement would be published by “late spring or early summer”.

Speaking in the Commons about her experience for the first time, Ms Kniveton said she was “traumatised” by the 10 years of abuse she suffered at the hands of ex-husband Andrew Griffiths.

She said: “Despite the court confirming that my child’s father was abusive, a rapist, it was decided that contact should continue through a contact centre and that I should pay for 50% of the cost of that contact.

“I couldn’t believe that anyone felt that my child, whom I’d been fighting to protect, would benefit from further contact with such an abusive and violent man, and that I, someone who had been subjected to that violent behaviour, should not only facilitate that contact, but also pay towards it.

“I’m really thankful that these proceedings have now concluded, and whilst I am traumatised – not just by the 10 years of abuse I experienced at the hands of my ex-husband, but the following five years where he continued to use the legal system to abuse me – I won’t waste any more time in telling my story and trying to make changes to help other women protect their children.

“I stand in the chamber today as a supposed winner, congratulated on succeeding against my ex-husband, but I stand here quite frankly drained financially and emotionally.

“I’m not sure that this is what people believe winning feels like, but I know what the alternative feels like, and I’ll do all I can to stand beside those fighting for their children’s safety.”

In February, a High Court judge ruled that Mr Griffiths would have no direct contact with his child in the “reasonably short term”.

Mike Freer
Mike Freer (UK Parliament/PA)

Mr Griffiths, former MP for Burton, was previously found to have pressured Ms Kniveton into engaging in sexual activity as well as raping her multiple times.

In a 2021 ruling, Judge Elizabeth Williscroft also found he had assaulted and used “coercive and controlling behaviour” against Ms Kniveton, who is now the MP for the same constituency.

Mr Griffiths denies the rape allegations.

Ms Kniveton said an “urgent review” is needed in line with recommendations made by the Harm report which assessed the risk of harm to children and parents in private law cases.

She called for the presumption of contact to be changed because it should be earned, not given to abusers.

She said: “I urge the minister to bring forward his review without further delay, to bring about legislative change that creates a safer environment for children and support a presumption of no child contact in cases where domestic abuse is a relevant factor.

“The minister’s review did not come quick enough for me, and I too was dangerously close to being let down by our legal system. Through using every penny I could get my hands on, and every ounce of resilience I could muster to stand in court and repeatedly tell my story, I was able to achieve a landmark ruling.

“It shouldn’t be the exception that only my child has protection from a man found by a court to have committed multiple accounts of rape and abuse against the mother – this should be the standard.

“It should be a clear message to those who carry out acts of abuse: it doesn’t matter whether you’re an MP or have any other public profile, if you are found by a court to have raped or abused the parent of your child, you are no longer entitled to assume that that child will benefit from contact with you.”

Mr Freer said the “acts of abuse perpetrated by the ex-partner” of Ms Kniveton were “clearly and totally abhorrent”.

On the presumption of parental involvement, Mr Freer said: “The Government is very mindful of the need to ensure that where it is safe a child should benefit from the involvement of both parents in their lives, but I do stress, where it is safe.”

Following the recommendations of an expert panel, the Ministry of Justice commissioned a further review into how the presumption of parental involvement was being applied in family courts.

Mr Freer said: “I know that (Ms Kniveton), like several others in this House, has expressed concern over the time taken to complete the review, and if I may, I can put on record that ministers from the department share that frustration at how long it has taken to bring forward our response.

“I am delighted to be able to confirm that the review and the accompanying Government response into the presumption of parental involvement will in fact be published by late spring or early summer of this year.”