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  1. ITV Report

Mum whose sons were burnt to death by their father demands more protection against domestic abusers

A mother whose two young sons were burnt to death by her ex-husband has told ITV News more must be done to protect families from abusive parents.

Claire Throssell's children Jack and Paul were murdered in a deliberate house fire after family courts decreed their father must have unsupervised access to them.

She said the legal system failed her and she does not want "any more families having to learn to exist without their children".

"Had they listened and acted on the information that they had on my ex-husband, then Jack and Paul would be here now. I have to live with those decisions," Ms Throssell, 46, said as she recounted their horrendous killings.

Claire Throssell's sons Jack and Paul were murdered after her ex-husband secured unsupervised access to them. Credit: Claire Throssell

Her sons had been lured to their death in 2014 by her husband of 16 years, Darren Sykes.

"They went straight up to the attic to see the new trains and he'd put a bowl of sweets in the middle," she said.

"He'd set so many fires it would have been impossible for Jack and Paul to get out anyway.

Darren Sykes killed himself and his two sons in a fire in October 2014. Credit: Claire Throssell

"And he had no intention of any of them coming out of that property alive."

She added: "As they picked Jack up off the landing Jack said to the fireman - he was still conscious - and he said: 'My Dad did this and he did it on purpose.'"

Ms Throssell issued the call for reform as a consultation on a new Domestic Abuse Bill to update the law ends on Thursday.

Campaigners are demanding change to the family courts. Credit: PA

The government has said tackling domestic abuse is an "absolute priority".

Campaigners are demanding change to the family courts, which they claim do not do enough to prevent abusive parents having contact with their children.

A report by Women's Aid and Queen Mary of London University found between 2005 and 2017 at least 20 children were killed by their abusive parents during contact visits.

Yet family courts are still awarding unsupervised access to abusive partners in a third of all cases.

Claire Throssell said the opportunity must not be missed to give other children the protection hers did not have. Credit: ITV News

And the report found a quarter of survivors of abuse are still going through the trauma of being cross examined by their abusers in family courts.

Ms Throssell, who has been commended for her campaigning since her family tragedy, said action must be taken to prevent others suffering.

She told ITV News: "I don't want any more families having to learn to exist without their children when it could have been stopped in the first place."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Domestic abuse destroys lives and children’s futures, which is why the Government has set out measures to better protect victims and bring more offenders to justice.

"We will legislate to ban the unacceptable practice of abusers cross-examining their victims in the Family Court as soon as possible.

"The law is clear that the child’s welfare is paramount, and it is for judges to determine what is best for the child after careful consideration of the facts in each case."