Family Court Files: Abusive father’s attempts to manipulate family courts

Man’s claims that he was the victim of domestic abuse were undermined by body-cam footage he recorded around the home

A man who raped his wife and was controlling and threatening towards her and their two children attempted to manipulate the family court into believing he was a victim of domestic abuse, a judge has ruled.

In a damning judgment Judge Middleton-Roy was highly critical of the man’s conduct, which included frequently filming his family using a body-worn camera.

The father, he found, had made false claims against the mother and contested her allegations against him for years, which he called “reprehensible and unreasonable”.

The man, who was ordered to pay more than £50,000 in costs to his ex-wife, spent several years accusing her of alienating their children, aged nine and 12, from him. These accusations, the judge said, were made to “distress, confuse and frighten her”.

While the father alleged the mother had turned the children against him, she claimed he had been abusive to both her and them. Each completely denied the other’s allegations.

On the first day of a trial in February to determine the dispute, the father said he was no longer pursuing allegations of “parental alienation”, a term that refers to a child’s unjustified rejection of one parent because of manipulation by the other.

However, he went on to say “with great vigour” that the mother had influenced the children against him, causing them harm and using them as a “pattern of abuse towards me”.

It was put to the father that he had sent the mother a link to an article from a psychology website about parental alienation with the message: “This is you”.

He told the court: “I sent her examples about parental alienation after she exhibited the behaviour described [in the article] because I was alarmed about what was happening. If she behaved badly, I would send these in response.”

Middleton-Roy said, in stark contrast to the mother, the father’s evidence was “deeply troubling” and “laced with sarcasm”.

The parents gave evidence about their relationship and the time after they had separated but still lived together with the children.

In July 2021, after the couple divorced, the mother asked the court for an “occupation order” to remove the father from the family home. She had previously been granted a non-molestation – or restraining – order against him.

At the time of her application, which was refused, the mother was representing herself while the father was represented by a lawyer. Middleton-Roy noted that because the application was dismissed by another judge, the family continued to live in the same home.

During that time the father used a body-cam to record the mother and children and left iPads recording when he wasn’t home. He would tell the mother she couldn’t speak to the children when it was ‘his turn’ for contact and locked his eldest child in their bedroom.

Middleton-Roy found the father was unable to reflect on the clearest evidence of his controlling and abusive behaviour – the video he took on his body-cam during an incident where he stopped one of his children leaving their bedroom, which highly distressed them.

The judge said: “The father took the decision to video record all movements in the family home. In doing so, he is hoist with his own petard.”

The mother’s barrister, Dr Charlotte Proudman, submitted that the father sought throughout his evidence to “deflect or deny, to attack the mother and to seek to reverse the role of victim and offender”.

In a judgment published earlier this month, Middleton-Roy said the evidence “leads to the clear conclusion the father has sought consistently, systematically and falsely to manipulate the mother, the children, professionals and the court into believing that he is the victim of domestic abuse perpetrated by the mother”.

He added that his “pernicious actions alone” led to both children, who ceased direct contact with their father in December 2022, rejecting him.

The father was represented at the hearing by Dads Unlimited, a charity that supports male victims of domestic abuse. However, the court found no evidence the mother had been abusive.

Instead the court found all the allegations the father made about her to be unfounded, and upheld all but one of her allegations against him – that allegation related to the source of an email the mother received threatening to publish a sexual video of her if she did not send £500.

The court found the mother did receive such an email but that her concern it was sent by the father was based on suspicion or speculation.

More than a dozen findings against the father included that he was coercive and controlling, that he used force and abusive behaviour against the children and that he raped the mother twice in 2020.

His persistent video recording created an atmosphere of “control and intimidation”, the court found, and he would undermine the children and “warp their perception of reality”.

The father was also voyeuristic and took many sexual photographs and videos of the mother without her consent, the judge concluded.

He was also found to be financially controlling and used court proceedings to emotionally torment the children and their mother. This included asking the court for her to have a mental health assessment despite there being no concerns about her mental health or parenting.

In 2023 the mother successfully appealed a decision by a judge to involve a psychological expert in her case. The designated children’s guardian had submitted an application for new expert evidence following the father’s allegations of alienation.

Allowing the appeal, Middleton-Roy wrote: “The expert was being invited to provide an opinion about parental alienation. In the judgement of the court, that is outside the expert’s remit.”

The case is a further example of abusive men using the concept of parental alienation to deflect allegations of rape or coercive and controlling behaviour, a trend being highlighted by TBIJ.

In October TBIJ revealed that a woman raped by her ex-partner – and accused by him of parental alienation – had to repeatedly give evidence in court due to an error made by a judge. The father was later stripped of his parental responsibility.

Giving evidence to the justice committee on Tuesday, the president of the Family Division in England and Wales said there had been a “complete upsurge” in the number of cases in which parental alienation is alleged and implied it was being used as a litigation tactic.

Responding to questions from the Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, Sir Andrew McFarlane said: “I suspect that you particularly will know, as I do, that it is often fed by understanding that is given to separating parties that if allegations are made against you, you might counter that with parental alienation. So we have seen a real rise in the number of cases where it is alleged.”

In August 2023 the judiciary’s Family Justice Council issued draft guidelines for consultation on the handling of allegations of alienating behaviour. The consultation closed on 16 October, but the FJC has yet to respond.

If you have been affected by issues similar to those raised in this article and want to share your experiences, please contact [email protected]

Reporter: Hannah Summers
Bureau Local editor: Gareth Davies
Deputy editors: Katie Mark and Chrissie Giles
Editor: Franz Wild
Production editor: Frankie Goodway
Fact checker: Alex Hess

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