Last week, I used Parliamentary privilege to reveal that a Judge who ruled that a woman had not been raped because she hadn’t taken sufficient physical steps to protect herself is still overseeing cases around domestic abuse and rape.
Justice Tolson recently ruled that sexual assault did not constitute rape, as the woman had taken no physical step to discourage the man. Ms Justice Russell in the Court of Appeal, overturned the ruling, found that his approach towards consent was manifestly at odds with current jurisprudence and had demonstrated “obsolescent concepts concerning the issue of consent”.
I have also taken the highly unusual step of tabling an Early Day Motion in the Commons, which under the rules of Parliament, is the only way in which Member’s of Parliament can raise their concerns over the conduct of a judge. I’m delighted it has been signed by dozens of MPs. I believe his stance on the issue of rape makes him unfit to preside over cases involving domestic abuse and rape and he should immediately recuse himself from all such cases.
Shockingly, this is not an isolated incident. I have been made aware of a number of troubling episodes concerning the family courts’ mistreatment of survivors of abuse. Pioneering research by Women’s Aid also found clear examples of family courts prioritising abusers’ rights over survivors’ rights.
That’s why I have consistently argued that the family courts must be reformed and, last May, I called on the Government to launch an independent inquiry into the family court system. In response, the Ministry of Justice held a review into how the family courts protect children and parents in cases of domestic abuse.
Given the latest revelations concerning Justice Tolson, this review should be published urgently to ensure that victims of rape and domestic abuse are not re-traumatised by the family justice system.