The Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of a father who had been denied contact with his children following accusations of domestic violence.
The recent case of Re M concerned a couple with three children, aged seven, five and three years of age. According to case reports, the mother was the victim of domestic violence over a lengthy period and eventually left the home, moving into a women’s refuge with the children.
The couple’s two oldest children had witnessed the violence and also experienced “over chastisement”. A psychiatrist involved with the case said the father showed signs of personality disorders.
The mother, meanwhile, said she feared the father might attempt to abduct the children abroad or commit ‘honour’ violence.
He applied for contact with the children but was refused after the original judge ruled the mother’s fears were sound. The father lodged an appeal.
When the case reached the Court of Appeal, Lord Justices Longmore and Underhill, along with Lady Justice Macur, concluded the legal order prohibiting contact with the father was too draconian. It had not properly considered where there were any reasonable alternative approaches to the situation, reflecting the children’s right to respect for their family life by allowing them contact with their father.
The original judge had been concerned with establishing a stable and viable home for the children with their mother and the prohibition on contact with their father had not been a proportionate response to this, the Appeal Court judges concluded.
The order was set aside and the case sent back for a fuller investigation into any ways in which supervised contact between the father and three children might be possible or appropriate.