Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Channel 4 News & the death of Hamzah Khan

Channel 4 News have interviewed Aftab Khan, father of Hamzah Khan, the Bradford boy who was killed by his mother Amanda Hutton in December 2009. Following his death, she concealed his body and it was discovered by a local Police Community Support Officer in September 2011.

A timeline of Hamzah's life can be found here.

I was intrigued by the prospect of Darshna Soni interviewing Aftab Khan. She is one of my favourite journalists, and I can usually rely on Channel 4 News to do investigative reporting that other media ignores. In short, I was hoping that Aftab Khan was going to be given short shrift in his attempt to re-write what happened within his family.

I was to be sorely disappointed. I was so disappointed, I was thankful that I'd set the programme to 'record', meaning I could re watch in order to transcribe.

This is the exchange showed on Channel 4 News, 13th November 2013.

Darshna Soni: [introduction to background of the case, including showing CCTV images of Amanda Hutton in the police station at the time of her arrest 'too drunk to stand'] "She had even managed to hide what was happening from Hamzah's father. Aftab Khan has told Channel 4 News that he feels that the report is a whitewash"

Aftab Khan: "someone's head has got to roll for this, because someone is at fault"

DS: "During the court case, Amanda Hutton claimed to be a victim of domestic violence. Mr Khan has a conviction for assaulting her. But he claims he was prevented from seeing his children"

DS [to Aftab Khan] "you've talked about the role of the police, of social services - what about your role?"

AK: "I...listen....you know when your hands are tied and you're pushed into a corner? What are you supposed to do? If I knew this was going to happen, I'd have smashed that door in...and gone and dealt with it myself...and then faced the consequences".

There are so many problems with this exchange, I'm not even sure where to start.

Aftab Khan is a convicted domestic abuser. The Serious Case Review into the death of Hamzah Khan clearly states police involvement due to domestic abuse over a period of 14 years. 14 years.

It appears that this man, who is being given national media airtime to discuss the agency failings around the death of his son, abused the mother of his children for 14 years. Good fathers do not abuse the mothers of their children. Good fathers provide a safe and loving environment for their children - an abusive household is neither safe, nor loving.

Soni's comment that Hutton 'claimed' to be a victim of domestic abuse is disappointing. She could have said 'Hutton described the abuse she suffered at the hands of Aftab Khan during the court case'. It remains factual (after all, Khan has a conviction for assault and was subject to a non-molestation order, implemented in 2008). Using this phrase tells quite a different story. Instead, we hear use of the word 'claim' - you can almost feel the "scare quotes" around it. {These pesky women, claiming that they're being abused in order to avoid responsibility!}

Khan was prevented from seeing his children at their home due to the non-molestation order. These orders are put into place by the courts to help keep victims safe from further abuse. Khan was the subject of a non-molestation order due to his abusive behaviour. If this prevented him from seeing the children at the family home, he could have applied for access to the children, which would likely have been granted, even if this were to be supervised by a statutory agency. I cannot find any record of him actually, or attempting, to do this.

Soni did ask Khan about his role - and he was allowed to excuse his own part in the death of his son and the responsibility he held as the boy's father.

He was not challenged, neither on his claim of being prevented from seeing his children, nor on his abusive behaviour recorded by the police over a period of 14 years. Following his conviction for assault, Khan was instructed to attend a perpetrator programme to help men to change their behaviour. He was asked to leave this group due to his disruptive behaviour and lack of cooperation. This was not mentioned during the interview, despite the publication of the Serious Case Review being the reason for Aftab Khan being interviewed.

Amanda Hutton is responsible for the death of her son, Hamzah Khan. But if we are to examine the failures in this case, allowing Aftab Khan to play the wounded solider is a role too far.

Upon reflection, it is possible that Darsha Soni spent a long period of time asking pertinent questions of Aftab Khan. She may have challenged his comments, she may have presented him with the evidence of his failure at fatherhood. If so, I hope she releases the transcript of the discussion, and saves me adding yet another national news agency to the 'sensationalist, ignorant & not worth watching pile'.

I won't hold my breath.

The details in this case have been taken from the Serious Case Review, published today. You can access it here.

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