Former minister Andrew Griffiths cannot see child for time being – judge rules

·3 min read

A former Conservative minister found to have raped and physically abused his ex-wife has been told by a High Court judge he cannot see his child for the time being.

Mrs Justice Arbuthnot has overturned a ruling by a lower-ranking family court judge allowing Andrew Griffiths, a former small business minister who was MP for Burton, to have “direct contact” – face-to-face contact – with the youngster.

She said the issue should be reconsidered by a family court judge.

Mr Griffiths’ ex-wife Kate Griffiths, who replaced him as Conservative MP for Burton, had appealed against the ruling by Judge Elizabeth Williscroft and asked Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, to overturn it.

Kate Griffiths
Kate Griffiths (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Griffiths, both 51, are embroiled in family court proceedings, centred on the child, after separating.

Mr Griffiths resigned as an MP in 2018 after a Sunday newspaper reported he sent “depraved” messages to two constituents.

Judge Williscroft concluded at an earlier stage of proceedings that Mr Griffiths raped and physically abused Ms Griffiths while they were married.

She made the ruling – on the balance of probabilities – at a private hearing after being asked to make findings of fact.

Mr Griffiths had “strongly denied” allegations made by Ms Griffiths – and denied rape.

Ms Griffiths appealed against a number of decisions made by Judge Williscroft, who hears cases in Derby and goes by the name Sue, during family court proceedings.

Barrister Charlotte Proudman, who represents her, told Mrs Justice Arbuthnot that Judge Williscroft was “wrong to order direct contact”, failed to “consider the short, medium, and long-term harm of contact on the mother and the child”, and failed to consider Mr Griffiths’ “capacity to appreciate the effect of past domestic abuse”.

Ms Griffiths was also unhappy because Judge Williscroft said she should share the costs of using a contact centre, where Mr Griffiths would see the child under supervision, with her ex-husband – also appealing against that decision.

Ms Proudman told Mrs Justice Arbuthnot that Judge Williscroft was “wrong to order” that Ms Griffiths, a “victim of rape”, should “share the costs of supervised contact with her rapist”.

Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, who considered Ms Griffiths’ appeal at a hearing in October, ruled on Thursday that Judge Williscroft’s order for direct contact should be “set aside” – and said it would be reconsidered at a later stage in proceedings.

She indicated that, if a judge decided in future that direct contact should take place, the issue relating to payment of the costs of contact should also be reconsidered.

Mrs Justice Arbuthnot said a judge would have to decide whether the case fell into a “wholly exceptional” category in relation to contact costs.

The judge said: “The order for direct contact is set aside. The order that the mother pay … contact costs is set aside.”

Three appeal judges recently ruled that Judge Williscroft’s findings could be made public after a 12-month legal fight by two media organisations – Tortoise and PA Media.

Ms Griffiths waived her right to anonymity and supported the fight by two journalists.

She said publication would allow her to help constituents.

Mr Griffiths “strongly denied” allegations made against him and argued that the family court judge’s findings should not be made public.

He said the judge’s findings should stay private in order to protect the child at the centre of the case.

Judges have ruled that neither the gender nor the name of the child can be revealed in media reports.

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