Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Bereaved South Yorkshire mother calls for legal changes

Darren Sykes with his two sons Paul and Jack Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Paul and Jack Sykes were killed in a house fire deliberately started by their father Darren in October 2014

A mother whose two sons were killed by their estranged father is calling for a change in the way courts deal with child access cases.

Jack and Paul Sykes, aged 12 and nine, died when their father Darren, 44, set fire to his house in Penistone on 22 October 2014.

Mr Sykes also died in the blaze.

He had recently divorced the boy's mother Claire Throssell, who claimed he was granted access visits by a court against her children's wishes.

Ms Throssell is backing the "Child First" campaign by charity Women's Aid which calls on the "family courts and the government to put the safety of children back at the heart of all decisions made by the family court judiciary".

In a report, the organisation claimed that "unsafe child contact arrangements" had led to the killing of 19 children by their fathers between 2005 and 2015.

'Frightening experience'

At an inquest into Jack and Paul's deaths the coroner found they had been unlawfully killed by their father after he lured them to the house with a new train set.

A report published by Barnsley Safeguarding Children Board in September said the boys told social workers they were scared of their father, with Paul describing him as "pure nasty".

Image caption The coroner's inquest heard the boy's father had lured them to the house with a new train set

Ms Throssell said she found the legal process a "traumatic and at times frightening experience".

"The tragic consequences happened whilst still under the jurisdiction of family law," she said.

"I don't want this to happen to anybody else, or any other parent to feel the pain of holding their children in their arms and comfort them as they die."

The president of the Family Division Sir James Munby, said: " I will consider the report with the care it deserves and identify the lessons that the judiciary can learn from it.

"I believe that other agencies in the family justice system may also benefit from the report and I look forward to discussing its conclusions with them and to taking joint action to address the findings of the report."

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