Rachel is a British woman who spent 12 years living in Greece, working as an English teacher. She had a long term relationship with a Greek man and together they had three children. The children’s father lost his job, was never able to find alternative work and became dependent on alcohol. He started to abuse Rachel through his aggressive behaviour but she felt she had no alternative but to stay with him and carry on working full time, for the sake of the children. However, one day, the father attacked Rachel violently in front of her children, leaving her bruised, bleeding and terrified, and she fled to safety with the children to a friend’s house, on the advice of the police.
With her partner making violent threats despite a restraining order, and having no money as he had withdrawn all the funds from her account, Rachel took the difficult decision to return with the children to in England. However, after several months in the UK, Rachel found herself being arrested by the police for removing the children from Greece without their father’s consent. She was released on bail and, although she initially qualified for legal aid, this did not last. Rachel realised that she needed to understand her legal position quickly but she could not afford to pay for a lawyer. At this stage Rachel was desperate but fortunately she found the Anglia Law School Law Clinic which had been recently established with support from LawWorks, where volunteer lawyers provide free family law advice. At the clinic, despite the fact that the odds were stacked heavily against her, Rachel was given the confidence to prepare and organise her defence against her former partner’s claims. At the final hearing, the judge concluded that the children should not be returned to Greece, having been persuaded by the strength of Rachel’s evidence.
Life is still difficult for Rachel and her children as they face challenges ahead. She remains extremely grateful to the volunteer lawyers and says, “Without them I would have fallen apart in court because I was so emotional. I was a complete mess and just trying to be brave. But they gave me the confidence to do it, suggested things I hadn’t thought of and taught me how to organise the case. I will be eternally grateful to them for their help and dedication.”