Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Sammy Woodhouse: Rotherham rapist access petition hits 200,000 mark

Sammy Woodhouse
Image caption Sammy Woodhouse's son was conceived when she was raped by Arshid Hussain

More than 200,000 people have signed a petition calling for rapists to be denied access to children conceived through their crimes.

Sammy Woodhouse, a victim of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, is calling for a change in the law.

The man who raped her, Arshid Hussain, was reportedly contacted by Rotherham Council about care proceedings involving her son heard last year.

Ms Woodhouse tweeted: "Thanks so much to everyone for the support."

In the petition started on Wednesday, Ms Woodhouse says: "After rebuilding my life, I was made to relive the trauma again last year when the courts said my abuser Hussain could seek visits with my son.

"That's why I'm calling for a change in the law, a simple amendment to the Children's Act 1989 that would ban any male with a child conceived by rape from applying for access/rights."

Her petition has been backed several politicians including Rotherham MP Sarah Champion and Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron.

However, speaking on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, Lucy Reed, - family law barrister and head of the Transparency Project - said current legislation was clear.

"It is derived from our obligation under human rights legislation that a child - rather than a parent - has the right to family life," she said.

She said consideration needed to be given where, for example, a child already had a relationship with a parent who is later convicted of rape, and wanted that to continue.

Image copyright South Yorkshire Police
Image caption Arshid Hussain was convicted of grooming and sexually abusing young girls in Rotherham

Hussain, known around Rotherham as Mad Ash, was one of three brothers behind the grooming and sexual abuse of more than 50 girls, including Ms Woodhouse.

He was jailed for 35 years in 2016.

Ms Woodhouse, who waived her anonymity in an effort to help other victims, told the BBC on Wednesday she was "shocked" when she was informed of the council's approach.

Rotherham Council said: "We must be clear that at no stage has it been the intention of the council to put any child at risk, or to allow any convicted child sexual exploitation offender to have care of any child."

The authority said it was seeking "clarification from the Ministry of Justice as to how legal directions relating to Family Court proceedings should be applied".

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said: "Local authorities can apply to courts to request permission not to notify parents without parental responsibility about care proceedings, and courts should consider the potential harm to the child and mother when making this decision."

Urgent efforts would be taken to "address the failings in this case", the MoJ said.

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