In Re W, the father’s marriage had broken down. After divorce the father saw his daughter and her older half sister, who was born to the mother during an earlier relationship. However, the older girl then made allegations about the man, saying he had behaved in a sexual way towards her and in an inappropriate way towards his daughter. She also claimed he had been violent towards their mother. The claim regarding the older girl and her mother were found to be true during a subsequent ‘fact finding’ hearing.
Contact with the younger child was therefore reduced to supervised visits only at a contact centre. The younger child wanted to see more of her father and he applied for the arrangements to be relaxed, allowing him to see his daughter for longer periods and have overnights visits.
His application was refused, on the grounds that the child was not old enough to understand the potential risks given the findings against the father. He appealed, claiming that the judge had not given sufficient reasons for not allowing the contact arrangements to stay as they had been before the allegations.
But his appeal was dismissed. Sitting in the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Black, Lord Justice McFarlane and Sir Stephen Sedley said the original judge had to make the best decision for the child without allowing previous arrangements to limit his decisions. He had to balance the relationship between the father and his child with her best interests and safety.
Photo of county court door via Flickr by Elliott Brown under a Creative Commons licence