The MP Who Raped His Wife
...and how he tried to stop you knowing
There is a long history of men trying to get away with their crimes against women. These crimes take place all over the world, they cross every background and every class – you will find whispers of these crimes in council estates or royal courts. And, even in our own Houses of Parliament where bills are passed to legislate against these very same crimes, the ones that those voting for them could well be guilty of committing themselves.
Often you will never hear about these crimes, because the trials take place not in criminal courts, but during Family Court Fact Finding Hearings where, on the balance of probability, judges decree whether men like these are guilty or not. It is some justice for the women who have suffered. Yet journalists cannot report on Family Court, and those women who have at last been heard, may not speak of what has gone on behind those closed doors.
Or at least, not always.
But they can today.
Former MP Andrew Griffiths has been trying to stop you hearing about his crimes for a long time. Because while he was serving as a government minister and MP for Burton until 2019, he was going home from work and raping his wife by having sex with her while she was asleep. Judge Elizabeth Williscroft sitting in the family court at Derby found him guilty of abuse within the marriage including coercive control, describing her as a ‘prude’ and ‘frigid’ when she refused to take part in his preferred sexual practices, and threatening her with financial ruin and homelessness if she ever left him. He controlled her by telling her the abuse she suffered would never be believed because of his position. He used that position to silence her, the judge found. His behaviour was typical of that of a perpetrator, he accused his wife of exaggerating, of being emotional and even ‘theatrical’, he minimised his violence and maximised her reaction to it, he never accepted responsibility, or apologised. He hit her, he threw things at her, he verbally abused her. When he pinned her to the sofa and put his hands around her throat, he denied it and said he simply put his hands around her to move her off that same sofa. But we women know the difference between hands on our arms and hands on our throat. We feel it.
Judge Williscroft heard testimony about Griffiths’ rape of his wife while she lay sleeping. ‘Unconscious,’ the judge said, ‘the question of consent cannot arise.’ (I hope this is clear to the producers of Woman’s Hour who had a discussion on this topic a few weeks ago). His wife describes crying as this rape took place and ‘his never apologising or recognising what he had done. Sometimes she said she would grit her teeth and let him get on with it. On others he would stop. Indeed on occasion he would be cross and kick her out of bed,’ the judge writes.
His wife, Kate, has since taken his parliamentary seat after he was disgraced for sexting constituents he did not even know. He made out it was a one off, and one reason this judgement was allowed was to set the record straight, because Griffiths had been lying to women for years. Kate described to the judge how she loved her husband and ‘wanted to believe it wouldn’t happen again’ – this is also typical victim behaviour. But perhaps what is not so typical is the fact that this particular victim is now a serving member of parliament.
What women need to hear again is that domestic abuse is a classless crime. You are as likely to be abused as a member of parliament, as you are a member of your local library. It is part of life, and we need to hear more stories like this to remind ourselves of this, to bring it out into the open. The exact thing that Andrew Griffiths did not want to happened and tried so hard to stop. But he did not succeed. Why? Because for once the courts recognised that they must stop colluding in the silencing of women. But they only did that because two brilliant journalists, freelancer Louise Tickle who does incredible work in the field of the family court and violence against women and girls, and Brian Farmer from the Press Association, found out about this story and applied to the court to make it known to members of the public – to you. Mrs Justice Lieven noted in her judgement on making the unusual step of naming the parties, something both Kate Griffiths and the court guardian appointed for her child were in agreement with, the: ‘strong public interest in understanding and being aware of predatory and sexually abusive conduct by men in power.’ The Me Too movement has made people realise they have been getting away with it for far too long.
Mrs Justice Lieven considered carefully the arguments made by Dr Charlotte Proudman, counsel for Kate Griffiths, that: ‘The mother says that she feels that, having been subject to coercive control by the father, she is now being silenced by his resistence to the judgement being published. For women who have been the subject of domestic abuse to be unable to speak about their experiences, including their experiences through litigation, must often be extremely distressing. And may in some cases be re-traumatising.’
The charity, Rights of Women, were allowed to intervene on this case. Mrs Justice Lieven writes in her judgment that: ‘Their submission focus on the rights of women who have been the victims of domestic abuse to freedom of expression (article 10) and “informational self-determination”, which I would call the right to tell their own stories.’
It is incredible to have a court judgement that acknowledges that women have a right to tell their own story of their lives and of what has shaped their experiences. She writes: ‘..those women who are prepared to campaign openly on the subject, and to be identified, may have a disproportionate impact on improving and enhancing the public debate.’ Because we all know that when one woman bravely speaks up, it makes other people feel braver too.
But here finally is a judgement that will mean so much to so many women. I met Kate Griffiths recently, and I think she would be a formidable voice in the fight to end violence against women and girls. I hope that is the path she chooses.
This case is being published not only because of the two high profile characters who are at the centre of it, and therefore the public interest in the man who was – at a time when he was voting on domestic abuse legislation – going home and subjecting his wife to degrading behaviour, but because Mrs Justice Lieven recognises how the family court colludes in the silencing of women, that cases need to be brought into the public domain, that secrecy only serves the perpetrator, that so much goes wrong in the family courts yet no-one ever hears about it because it is so shrouded in secrecy. And today, for once, reporters have been allowed to publish a judgement that got it right. This could mark a sea change.
I hope that women will take some confidence from this, that we should and must, hold our abusers to account. That failure to do that serves no-one but the perpetrator, it allows him to continue with his crimes in secret, it makes more women victims.
It is estimated that in 2020, 1.6 million women between the ages of 16-74 experienced domestic abuse, this story today represents just one of those men down.
Now everybody knows the real Andrew Griffiths.
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