Keeping children and victims of domestic abuse safe from harm is the aim of a new team within Harrison Clark Rickerbys.
The team, led by Mat Waddington, who specialises in law relating to children, draws on the specialist expertise of Victoria Pratt, an expert in supporting the victims of abuse, as well as the firm’s family law partners and teams across the region.
Mat and Victoria and their colleagues, supported by partners and senior staff across the firm’s family law teams in Worcester, Hereford, Cheltenham, and the Wye Valley, will take referrals from CAFCASS, the service which supports children through the court system, as well as from individuals who need help.
They are taking on legally-aided public law work – this includes cases where local authorities become involved with families and want to remove a child from their family to keep them safe, as well as cases of domestic violence, where victims need to get court orders to keep abusers away from them.
Mat explained: “We see this as a natural extension of our family law work; we have all, sadly, come across instances of abuse, and our new focus will mean that we can respond rapidly and really effectively to support those who are the most vulnerable.
The work involving children includes care and supervision orders; the domestic abuse work includes getting injunctions including non-molestation and occupation orders.
Mat explained that the team can act either for the children or for parents or family members – he said: “A local authority’s wishes for a child are not necessarily the same as what really is best for the child and that child should have the right representation. Parents or grandparents who want to keep the child in the family, but safe, also have the same right, so on other occasions, we can act for them. The central factor is the safety and wellbeing of the child concerned.”
Victoria, who is an expert in domestic abuse, said: “Abuse can be psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional; it can control and limit someone’s life as well as causing them physical harm. I detest bullying and violence and am passionate about protecting anyone who has been the victim of domestic abuse.”