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Killing in the family

Date:27 FEB 2020
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Barry McAlinden, Field Court Chambers

Cases involving the killing of one parent at the hands of another (uroxide) are unsurprisingly fraught. Surprisingly they are also more common than you might imagine [7 women being killed per month in England and Wales [ONS (2015), Crime Survey England and Wales 2013-14. London: Office for National Statistics]. In effect, children 'lose' both parents, one to death, one to incarceration or cessation of contact due to assessment of risk. Dr Tony Kaplan, a leading child and adolescent psychiatrist, describes such children as being 'doubly orphaned, suddenly and catastrophically', which often leads to violent disturbance of the psyche, which may be veiled by apparent resilience, shock, displacement of feelings or stoicism.

Children in such cases will suffer from bereavement, trauma, disruption of attachment[s] and anxiety. Delay in determining placement will only add to those issues, as this will add to delay in providing a space for children to deal with loss and trauma and engage with therapeutic intervention[s]. Placement decisions are complicated by the acceptance or otherwise of the court’s finding by proposed carers, in particular from the perpetrator’s family. Other complications may be the apparently inconsistent decisions of the criminal courts (acquittal) and the family court (a narrative of killing). 

The full article will be published in the March issue of Family Law

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