This week's MP's column comes from Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley

EVERY day, up and down the country, parents are being denied access to their own children for no good reason.

This is happening because either one parent refuses to let the other parent see their children or one parent has actually turned their children against the other parent. Anyone who has experienced this will know how devastating it can be and anyone who has not can probably fairly easily imagine.

I have been concerned about this for years and this is why I tabled amendments in Parliament during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act last year to change the definition of domestic abuse to include cases where one parent deliberately denied another parent contact with their child or alienated them from their children in other ways.

The Government did not support my amendment as it stood but, after discussions we had, promised to define such behaviour as domestic abuse in the Statutory Guidance issued alongside the Act.

The Minister wrote to me recently to let me know about the latest draft Statutory Guidance and I am delighted to say that the Government have spelt out very clearly that this behaviour is now clearly considered to be domestic abuse under the new definition.

Under the ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’ strand of domestic abuse the guidance includes: “Using children to control their victim, e.g. threatening to take the children away or manipulating professionals to increase the risk of children being prevented from having contact with the victim or having children’s social care involvement. Alienating behaviours, including invidious drip feeding of negative views to a child by one parent about the other parent, or any attempt by one parent to frustrate or limit the child’s contact with the other parent, other than for reasons based on concern about the risk to that child.”

Also, under ‘emotional or psychological abuse’ it includes: “Turning children and friends against the victim (which may have a subsequent impact on children) including falsely and without justification telling a child that the other parent abandoned them, never loved them, or never wanted them.”

This is all particularly welcome because not only does it make it crystal clear that this is abuse but it mentions these actions under two different sections of domestic abuse showing how wide-ranging and damaging this behaviour can be.

I have heard from many parents since I first raised this issue - each with a tragic story to tell.

Many are literally at the end of their tether. Being deprived of contact with a child is one of the worst things that can happen to a loving parent and they will obviously never be able to get back any of that lost time.

I very much hope this development will go some way to reassure these people and all the other parents unfortunate enough to be encountering this sort of behaviour. They are suffering from abuse and it is only right that the Government has recognised them as the victims they clearly are. Those who perpetrate this abuse are often manipulative and vindictive. Many have no care at all for who gets hurt along the way - as it is not just parents who are victims in these cases. 

If a child is effectively alienated from one of their parents, they are often alienated from others in the family too. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, half siblings, cousins etc. Everyone can potentially get cut off from a child.

That is heart-breaking for families and should not be allowed to happen on the say so of one parent for no good reason. Then the other obvious victim is the child. Not only are they losing out on relationships with a parent and their wider family but the damaging long term psychological effects on children at the centre of these sort of toxic situations should not be underestimated.

It can be argued that it is also a form of child abuse and I am afraid that it actually happens more often than some people might think. The courts and all those involved with the welfare of children have a key role to play in preventing this abuse. They need to make sure they identify cases of deliberate alienation by one parent and try to prevent it.

They certainly need to ensure that the parent responsible does not get rewarded for this behaviour when it comes to custody issues. 

Now that the Government has clearly stated that the actions they have specifically listed in the Statutory Guidance are instances of domestic abuse, I sincerely hope that more will be done to protect and support all the innocent victims of this devastating behaviour.