Sheffield MP criticises government response to petition calling for rapists to be denied access to their children

The law allowing rapists access to their children must be changed to stop them “re-traumatising their victims”, a Sheffield MP told the House of Commons yesterday.

Louise Haigh MP, who represents Sheffield Heeley, called on the government to change the law allowing visitation rights to fathers of children conceived through rape.

This comes after a petition started by Sammy Woodhouse, a victim of the Rotherham sex abuse scandal who had a baby as a result of rape as a teenager, reached 350,000 signatures.

The petition calls for the change after Arshid Hussain, the father of the baby, was encouraged by Rotherham City Council to apply for visitation rights as he serves a 35-year prison sentence.

However, the Prime Minister’s response to the statement, in which she failed to express outright support for the law change, has led to Mrs Haigh tweeting her disappointment in the government’s response.

“Today at PMQs I was proud to stand with Sammy Woodhouse to call for a change in the legislation to ensure that men who have fathered children through rape should have no parental rights,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the PM did not agree.”

In her speech before the House of Commons, Mrs Haigh emphasised the need for protection of victims.

“Men who have fathered children cannot weaponise the courts to access children and re-traumatise their victims all over again,” Mrs Haigh added.

Theresa May responded to the call with assurances that the process would be examined, however she did not express outright support for the law change.

In response to the petition Mrs May said: “The Ministry of Justice and other departments are urgently looking and working with local authorities on the issues that are raised in this case to ensure that there is a process in place in future that does protect the child and mothers from harm.”

The petition remains active and it can be found at https://www.change.org/p/david-gauke-stop-rapists-from-accessing-children-conceived-through-rape.