A father convicted of the sexual abuse of two of his partner’s children has failed in an appeal against the loss of his parental rights.
In the case of Re D (A Child), the man moved in with a mother of five children but the couple never married. He was an illegal drug user. During a “turbulent” relationship, the couple had a son together, referred to as ‘D’ in case reports.
He pleaded guilty to the abuse of the woman’s two eldest daughters and was sentenced to four years in jail. As soon as he was let out, the mother went to court and asked for his legal rights as the father of D to be removed. Although the couple were unmarried, the man was named on the boy’s birth certificate as the father and therefore had parental responsibility, under Section 4 of the Children’s Act 1989.
In April last year, Mr Justice Baker granted the mother’s application, saying that the boy’s sense of security and his role within the family would both be threatened by a continuing relationship with his father.
The man appealed but Lord Justice Ryder rejected his arguments. The welfare of children was the primary consideration of the courts in family cases and the father had not accepted his guilt. He declared:
“On the facts that he found, [Mr Justice Baker] was entitled to conclude…that:
‘as he continues to deny his culpability for the devastating acts of abuse he perpetrated on the family, I think it highly unlikely that he appreciates the damage he has caused to every member of the family, or the danger of further damage should he have any further involvement with the family’
The judge also concluded that D had suffered serious emotional harm as a consequence of the actions of his father and that he was at risk of further emotional harm in the future.”
Mr Justice Ryder concluded, however:
“Nothing I have said in this judgment should be construed to suggest that it has become or should become easier to remove an unmarried father’s parental responsibility. I would strongly resist any move in that direction. It is vitally important to encourage the exercise of parental responsibility by fathers. Children have a right to that benefit.”
Photo by JosephB under a Creative Commons licence