Posted by Charlotte Butler-Kitto on 22nd August 2016

A recent report in the Guardian newspaper explores the media reporting surrounding the murder of Claire Hart and Charlotte Hart.  Claire and Charlotte were killed on 19th July 2016 near the Castle Sports Complex in Spalding Lincolnshire.  An inquest has now heard that their husband and father, Lance Hart shot them both with a single barrelled shotgun before turning the weapon on himself.  The full inquest is due to take place on 19th October 2016.

The implication that Claire Hart had in part brought her death upon herself by separating from Lance is damaging.

This is of course a tragedy, but what Laura Bates focusses on in her article is the media’s focus on exploring the motivations behind these murders, the motivations that Mr Hart may have had.  It seems to be understood that Mr and Mrs Hart had separated and their marriage had broken down, and in this context Ms Bates criticizes a Daily Mail writer Dr Max Pemberton who stated that one party killing their partner as an act of revenge, “may be understandable”.  Bates makes the point –quite rightly- that the implication that Claire Hart had in part brought her death upon herself by separating from Lance is damaging, as it is an attempt to divest perpetrators of responsibility and place the blame for such action upon the victim.  Bates points out that in the wider societal problem of violence against women, it is important that any such preconceptions be challenged.

Unfortunately, intimate partner violence is an issue in our society that does need to be addressed,  At The Family Law Company, we act for many victims of intimate partner violence both securing Orders to protect themselves and their children, and also, if necessary, in proceedings for divorce and financial remedies on divorce and potentially proceedings regarding arrangements for their children.  We recognise that being a victim of domestic abuse can have significant effects on the lives of men, women and children that often it is difficult to speak up in these circumstances.  We have close links with local support services to whom we can refer our clients if there are issues of domestic abuse that need to be addressed.  We also are pleased to recognise the Government’s development of the definition of domestic abuse, to now include financial abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour.

We also have a thriving Legal Aid practice in both our Plymouth and Exeter branches, as well as acting for clients in Devon and Cornwall and in other Counties throughout the UK as well as internationally.  Victims of domestic abuse can, if financially and merits eligible, still potentially access Legal Aid for assistance in dealing with issues arising from their family relationships, which can include divorce and financial proceedings as well as children proceedings and issues surrounding jointly owned property.

Legal Aid is also still available for any person seeking to obtain an Order to protect themselves and their children from domestic abuse (although there may be financial contributions that the Legal Aid Agency require to be made).  We work closely with our clients completing the complicated Legal Aid applications and in attempting to secure for them the funding that can be necessary in order to protect them.  For victims of domestic abuse who have fled the home and are living in the refuge accommodation or in a new area of the Country, we recognise that it can be difficult to obtain documentation so we work with support services assisting that person as well as obtaining forms of authority for bank details etc in order to obtain the documentation necessary for that person to apply for Legal Aid in order to obtain a protective Order for themselves and potentially for their children.

It can be a long journey, particularly if the relationship was long, the parties were married, or there are children involved.  However, the problem with intimate partner violence will not go away unless this is brought out into the open and dealt with.  As Ms Bates so eloquently puts in her article “we must hold perpetrators fully accountable, and we must report responsibly on these cases.  Only then will we as a society be able to recognise that, in fact, there is so much more that could be done”.

If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know , and have fears that you or they may be a victim of domestic abuse, or may be at risk of domestic abuse in the future, then there are those places where you can speak up.  There are support services available, and the Courts can offer legal protection.  We have dedicated teams in both our Plymouth and Exeter offices dealing with domestic abuse and protective orders, and we offer a free initial appointment to clients so that they can explore the options available to them and make the decision that is right for themselves and for their children.

If you would like to talk to one of our lawyers following the content of this article then please telephone us on 01392 421777 or if out of hours, use our contact form and someone will return your call.

If you feel that you or another person are at immediate risk, then it is important to seek appropriate support by telephoning the Police on 999 to make sure that you or that person remains safe.

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