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Mother whose abusive ex-partner broke her hand leads campaign to change law over access to children | UK News

When Michelle’s ex-partner broke her hand – she knew enough was enough.

A line had been crossed. The abuse was emotional, coercive, and now physical. Her, and their child’s safety, was now compromised.

Fearful, Michelle – not her real name – decided that any father-child contact should be supervised.

Michelle - not her real name - decided that any father-child contact should be supervised. 
Sky News correspondent Sabah Choudhry speaks to “Michelle”

Michelle’s ex-partner, however, wanted unsupervised contact with their child. He pushed back – and what followed was four years of court proceedings.

Michelle, and other campaigners like her, are calling on the government to end the presumption of contact between parents and their children.

On Monday, they will present a report to the government with recommendations to change the law.

Their main demand? To make parental contact earned – and not simply handed to abusers.

Currently, under British law, there is no blanket ban on an abusive adult having contact with their children.

Palace of Westminster / Houses of Parliament

According to the Children Act of 1989, there is a presumption of contact between parent and child when adults separate – to benefit the child.

However, according to Michelle, this isn’t always the case.

“The court system,” she told Sky News, “was as abusive as my ex-partner. It had an agenda to promote unsupervised contact at any cost, despite my medical and police evidence [of harm].”

“It felt to me, I was living in Victorian times, that my child belonged to my partner, and that I had to do what he wanted.

“It’s a very misogynistic system… that it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are – children will always have contact with their fathers.

“But it shouldn’t be at any cost…”

‘No parent is better than an abusive parent’

Dr Charlotte Proudman is leading the campaign.

Dr Charlotte Proudman, the barrister and founder of "Right to Equality"
Dr Charlotte Proudman, the barrister and founder of Right to Equality, is leading the campaign

The barrister and founder of the non-profit organisation Right to Equality told Sky News: “In my view, no parent is better than an abusive parent.

“Even if a parent is a rapist, a child sex offender, has been abusive, there is a presumption that they should have regular contact with their child, which can mean, in some instances, that a child is having unsafe contact with a dangerous parent.

“To argue against that can cost huge amounts of money and take a significant amount of time, even years.”

‘I shouldn’t be the exception… this should be standard’

This is something Conservative MP Kate Kniveton knows too well.

Conservative MP Kate Kniveton
Conservative MP Kate Kniveton won a landmark case against her former partner

She told Sky News that she suffered 10 years of abuse from her ex-husband – a former MP.

The family court made findings of rape and sexual abuse, which he denies.

Ms Kniverton won a landmark case against her former partner, which now means he is barred from direct contact with their child.

Therefore, she supports the recommendations to change the law, in order to protect both women and children.

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She said: “The result we got with my child was great… my child is protected.

“But I shouldn’t be the exception…This should be standard in so many cases.

“You hear that contact has been ordered even with the most abuse of power.

“It is so important that the government listen to this and they overturn that presumption to protect children.”

As of Friday, the government announced that paedophile rapists will have their rights to contact their own children automatically removed.

But this current campaign wants an end to the assumption that parents can contact their children even when they are guilty of domestic abuse, sexual abuse or child abuse.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice told Sky News: “Children’s safety is absolutely paramount and judges already have extensive powers to block parental involvement where there is a risk to the child.

“We are continuing to review the approach to parental access to make sure all children are kept from harm.”

First child to get new cancer treatment among 100,000 given early access to drugs in NHS milestone | UK News

Nearly 100,000 cancer patients have now had fast-track access to newly approved NHS drugs – with one teen saying his treatment felt like being on a “slope going up”.

Yuvan Thakkar, 16, was the first NHS patient to receive a therapy that uses the body’s own cells to fight cancer.

He was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia aged six and received the pioneering treatment at Great Ormand Street Hospital.

The CAR-T therapy, called tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah), involved removing his immune cells and modifying them to recognise and destroy cancer cells, before reintroducing them to the body.

In April, the NHS will have helped 100,000 patients access new and innovative treatments over eight years.

It’s been made possible by the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund – set up in 2016 to give patients faster access to new treatments.

The fund benefits people with common cancers, such as breast, lung, colorectal and prostate; as well as those with less common ones such as ovarian, cervical, kidney, and leukaemia – and also rare cancers including thyroid and biliary tract.

NHS England said patients get access to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved treatments six months faster, and all cancer treatments are funded as soon as they are approved.

For Yuvan, who spent his childhood in hospital fighting leukaemia, faster access to the CAR-T therapy means he is now able to sit his GCSEs.

Recounting his treatment, he said: “I remember receiving the cells for a bit. I was feeling quite down” – before being sent to intensive care “where I couldn’t do basic counting and things like that”.

The 16-year-old pictured with his family and (below) painting for his art GCSE

Painting for his art GCSE

The teenager said he doesn’t remember any of his treatment until it was finished.

“I thought I could start to get better, then I remembered, ‘oh, I can do this, I can do that’. And from now on, it’s just been like a slope going up,” said Yuvan.

Concern as cancer targets cut

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, the NHS England medical director, said treating 100,000 people was “a fantastic milestone”.

He said: “This vital fund is helping ensure patients get access to the most promising drugs far quicker than would otherwise be the case, helping people with cancer like Yuvan receive a life-changing intervention that sets a path for a longer, healthier life spent with family and friends”.

However, Professor Pat Price, a leading oncologist and co-founder of the Catch Up With Cancer campaign, is concerned about those still struggling to get treatment due to the backlog of cancer cases.

Read more from Sky News:
Contraceptive injections linked to brain tumour risk
Preventative therapies ‘can cause cancer to hibernate and return’

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Since the pandemic, she said 250,000 patients have not had their treatment on time.

National guidance states 85% of people should begin treatment within two months, or 62 days, of an urgent referral, but Professor Price said there has been a downgrade in ambition.

She told Sky News: “We are in the biggest cancer crisis we’ve ever had. This week the NHS have reset their targets for 2025 and sadly, they’ve pushed their recovery target for cancer.”

She said the target for next year had been cut from 85% to 70%.

Prince Harry granted access to secret documents in phone hacking claim | UK News

Prince Harry has successfully secured the release of confidential documents from the Leveson Inquiry as part of his phone hacking case against the publishers of the Daily Mail.

The decision permitting the Duke of Sussex to access the files was taken by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer.

Harry and six other high-profile claimants want to use the documents, which detail payments to private eyes, to support their case against Associated Newspapers.

The group, which includes Sir Elton John, Liz Hurley and Doreen Lawrence, have filed a lawsuit which makes allegations of phone hacking, blagging and other unlawful information gathering.

Although the claimants had been given leaked copies of the documents, a judge ruled they could only be used if the government approved their release.

In a joint statement, Home Secretary James Cleverly and Ms Frazer said: “We do not consider that it is necessary in the public interest to withhold these documents from any disclosure or publication.”

The government notice changes the restriction order imposed by Sir Brian Leveson following his 2012 inquiry into British press standards.

Associated Newspapers tried to stop the files being released, claiming they had provided the Leveson Inquiry with the ledgers of payments on the understanding they would remain confidential.

The decision has been welcomed by Prince Harry and the other claimants bringing the litigation.

Associated Newspapers deny all the charges.

At an earlier hearing their lawyers had argued the case was being brought too late, but this was rejected by a judge who concluded they had failed to deliver a knockout blow.

Read more on Sky News:
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Prince Harry recently settled his outstanding claims against Mirror Group Newspapers for an undisclosed sum.

In December 2023, he won a substantial part of his claim that he was the victim of phone hacking and other illegal practices by Mirror Group.

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Prince Harry loses protection case

But Harry hasn’t always had success in his High Court challenges.

He recently lost his legal challenge against the Home Office over the provision of his tax-payer funded security.

And he earlier lost a libel case against Associated Newspapers, over an article written about the same case.

Bereaved parents whose children took own lives demand more access to content they were exposed to online | Science & Tech News

Bereaved parents of children who took their own lives want authorities to take online histories into account when determining their cause of death.

The mother of Archie Battersbee, who died in August 2022 after a “prank or experiment” that went wrong, joined other families to demand more access to content their children were exposed to online.

“I think it should be available and be part of the whole investigation,” Hollie Dance told Sky News.

“When it comes to a child’s death, everything should be looked into.

“Obviously they look into the parents, the home life, school life. Why not look into social media?”

Ms Dance’s 12-year-old son Archie died after being found unconscious at home four months earlier.

She believes he may have been taking part in an online challenge, but a coroner ruled his death an accident.

“We’ve got his phone now, so let’s go back and see what this child was into,” she said.

“What did he watch? Did he look at a lot of social media? Didn’t he?”

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August 2022: ‘I’m broken’

Molly Russell ruling ‘opened our eyes’

Ian Russell campaigned to get access to his daughter Molly‘s social media history after she was found dead in her bedroom in November 2017.

It emerged Molly, 14, had viewed masses of content related to suicide, depression, and anxiety online.

In a landmark ruling at an inquest in September, a coroner ruled she died not from suicide, but “an act of self-harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content.”

Ms Dance, who was joined by Mr Russell at a meeting of bereaved families this week, said: “Having Molly’s dad here has given us knowledge that we didn’t know.

“It opened our eyes to things that we can potentially do and use moving forward.”

Read more:
‘It was shocking to see material was that bad’

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‘Losing friend at that age was scarring’

‘What has happened to you?’

Liam Walsh’s daughter Maia died just weeks before her 14th birthday.

An inquest into her death opened in October, but a hearing date is yet to be set.

Mr Walsh the coroner will have access to Maia’s full social media history before determining what caused her death.

“The question I asked as I ran my fingers through her hair, and I held her belly, was what has happened,” he said.

“What has happened to you? I’m still asking that question today.”

Read more:
Prince William calls for greater online safety

Maia Walsh
Maia Walsh

‘We have this mission’

In her first interview since her son Isaac’s death, Lisa Kenevan told Sky News she is on a mission to bring change.

“He was a typical 13-year-old boy with a good group of friends,” she said.

“He was very loving. We’d hold him every day, and he’d hold us every day.”

She thinks social media might hold clues to what drove Isaac to his death.

“Our world has just been awful, but we have this mission, this need, this want to get out there for every other parent that’s been going through this, to either come forward or know they’ve got support,” she said.

“And to really push forward to get some awareness about the social platforms – that things need to be stepped up.”

Read more:
Online Safety Bill is certainly too late

The parents of Molly Russell, Archie Battersbee, Isaac Kevevan, Maia Walsh, and Christoforos Nicolaou are campaigning for greater access to their children's social media history
The parents of Molly Russell, Archie Battersbee, Isaac Kevevan, Maia Walsh, and Christoforos Nicolaou are campaigning for greater access to their children’s social media history

‘Threats were made to hurt us’

The families met at the home of George and Areti Nicolaou, whose son Christoforos, 15, took his own life in 2022 after joining an online forum where he was encouraged to do dangerous challenges.

His parents described him as “the heart of the house”, who was “bringing joy and happiness in our home”, but the challenges he did escalated and made him miserable.

“There were challenges like he’s got to not go to sleep at all, then go to school in the morning,” his parents said.

“Then there were challenges like you’ve got to chat with us through the night. Then there were challenges where they made him get his phone and record the whole house.

“Then threats were made to hurt us, his parents, should he not complete the challenges he’s been asked to do.”

George and Areti have launched the Christoforos Charity Foundation in their son’s memory.

They hope their work with other families to raise awareness of online harms ensure his legacy reaches even further.

The families’ meeting came as the government’s Online Safety Bill makes its way through parliament.

The proposed law – which aims to regulate internet content to help keep users safe, and also to make companies responsible for the material – has been repeatedly held up over concerns about its impact on freedom of expression.

Surveys suggest it has the backing of a majority of UK adults and charities like the NSPCC and Barnardo’s.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK