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Jailed sex offenders in UK use courts to harass their victims

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Summary of story from The Guardian, December 4, 2011

Convicted murderers, rapists and stalkers are taking legal actions that are often funded by the public purse to further pursue, harass and stalk their victims at the UK’s family and civil courts.

And the probation officers’ union, napo, and the charity Protection Against Stalking (PAS) warn that the rights of perpetrators are being put before those of their victims.

Arguing that the system leaves victims open to psychological abuse and can exacerbate their trauma, they are demanding an urgent change in the law.

The union has highlighted 33 cases where men convicted of serious offences have exploited the legal system to continue to instil fear in their victims.

In one case a convicted sex offender who was serving a long sentence for possessing thousands of images of him abusing children, including his own, applied to have contact with his children.

The judge allowed the application, which was funded by legal aid. Only after repeated court hearings was the case thrown out, leaving the mother of the children traumatised.

They also found several men who had killed their partners made applications for contact orders with their children. Applications that were paid for by public-funded legal aid.

Napo argues that the cases, which embroil the victims in lengthy and sometimes costly legal battles to counter the men’s claims, highlight serious shortcomings in the laws governing stalking.

Laura Richards, from PAS, said: “We know separation and child contact are high-risk factors when there has been previous abuse, and perpetrators will use any means to continue to exert their power and control, including the system and professionals working within it.

“The victim and their children’s safety and their human rights must be paramount.”

Napo and PAS are calling for a panel to be established to examine the merit of applications made by offenders seeking access to the law.

They also want criminal courts to have the power to suspend parental responsibility when the defendant is sentenced.

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