High Court rejects father’s custody bid

Children|News|February 6th 2014

The High Court has rejected a man’s bid for custody of his daughter after the death of her mother.

Mr Justice Keehan said the man, originally from Cameroon in West Africa, did not understand the girl’s emotional needs.

The father had wanted the girl to come and live with him and his new partner in Manchester, the Press Association (PA) reports.

The judge declared: “I do not doubt that in his own way [the father] deeply loves [his daughter]. Most importantly, there is the extent to which this father can meet the emotional needs of this child. He may love her, as he did frequently say he loves her. Sadly, in life that is not enough.”

He added:

“This child needs to have her emotional needs recognised and met. She needs to be the centre of attention so that her needs are not missed. I regret to find that the father does not begin to evince any understanding of what those needs are nor does he evince any ability to meet them.”

The father had an uncertain immigration status in the UK and had not been truthful with social workers about his situation, the judge noted.

He also criticised the father’s response to a particular question while he was giving  evidence.

“When I heard him reply in answer to the fact that [the daughter] has been through a lot in her short life, I thought it heartless on the part of the father to reply ‘Me, too’. It is a powerful and illuminating example of the approach of this father to this matter, which is to his needs and his rights and what he wants, and coming a very poor second is what this precious little girl needs. Accordingly, applying the welfare check list and applying the paramountcy principle of deciding what is in (the girl’s) best interests, I have no hesitation in finding that it would be wholly contrary to (her) short-term and long-term welfare best interests to be cared for by her father.”

Under the Children Act 1989, the courts are obliged to give paramount consideration to a child’s welfare. The Act also contains a ‘welfare checklist’ of issues to be considered when determining a child’s welfare needs.

The girl should instead be adopted by her maternal aunt and uncle in the US, the judge declared.

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  1. Dana says:

    Who is this judge to decide that a father cannot have his own daughter? He is making inference to sentiments that are made off the cuff and may not relate to what he is really feeling! Our family law system is so wrong! On so many levels!

  2. Anon says:

    Unfortunately with the clear evidence of the statements by the judge he does not understand the emotional hardships of family life. Hey this passing judgement without actually knowing someone is pretty easy, maybe I should be a judge. Quick someone get me a checklist!

  3. Yvie says:

    I agree with Dana – why does the State think it has the right to deprive a daughter of her father. How does he know she would be better off with other people.

    Why do we all sit passively by and do nothing about such decisions.

  4. Andrew says:

    What you say in court is not “off the cuff”. As for you, Anon, judges have to pass judgment without knowing the people concerned – it’s in the job description.

  5. Anon says:


    Cool, so I am qualified to be a British judge. I need to run out and buy a powdered wig. Silly me thinking that in order to pass judgement one might require evidence instead of a checklist. Maybe they can do this for criminal courts as well, so as to speed up the process.

  6. Andrew says:

    No, Anon, you are not so qualified. The judge in this case had the full evidence of the parties – his decision did not turn on the father’s off-the-cuff remark, appalling thought it was.

    But the demeanour of the parties in giving evidence is a matter properly considered by judges.

  7. Luke says:

    I do think it very surprising that the Judge brought up this rather innocuous comment by the father – maybe the father was saying that to show that he could in fact empathise and understand the feelings of the child.

    I don’t know the intimate details of this case but what I do know is that if an apparently sound parent who happened to be female instead of male did not get residency and the child was moved out of the country it would be a massive deal.

    We would have a national campaign with an Internet website – Harriet Harman would be on breakfast news to talk about it…

  8. Anonymous says:

    I find Andrew’s respect for mindless state agents with large salaries mind-boggling. This is clearly a case of the state engaging in child-trafficking, something that it did after the war and only became subtler at. This case just undermines all legitimacy and authority. If the same judgement had been passed against the mother, the several charities that champion single mothers would have campaigned to have it overturned immediately.

  9. Tristan says:

    The judge’s action in picking on an isolated remark like that is as bad as that of Cafcass officers when they seek to damn a contact-seeking father by latching onto a one-off parenting error during observed contact and highlighting it in their S.8 report, to make it by allusion representative of the father’s parenting skills generally. The custodial mother, by omission of any spotlight on her undoubted faults, is by inference, the perfect parent. That’s a common, sneaky tactic of Cafcass. The average Cafcass report describes no more than a banal tale of everyday normality. Any judge who relies on one of these biased S.8 reports to resolve a contact dispute or uses a one-off remark to make a generalised character judgement about someone, is a plonker.

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