Father can only have ‘indirect contact’, court rules

Family|December 24th 2014

The Court of Appeal has rejected a Pakistani father’s bid to overturn a ruling that he can only have indirect contact with his children.

Re P-K concerned parents, both from Punjabi families, who had entered an arranged marriage. They went on to have two children, now aged eight and six. But the couple separated in March 2011 following intervention by the police, who helped the mother leave the family home along with her children.

A fact-finding hearing in court concluded that the mother had been subjected to humiliation and abuse and also threatened with ‘honour’ violence. Both social workers and the police concluded that the woman had genuine reasons to fear honour violence and report by Cafcass suggested that it would be difficult to ensure her safety during contact with the father.

She was granted a residence order, allowing the children to officially live with her, and not long afterwards, also given a non-molestation order, prohibiting harassment by the father.

Subsequently, both the father and his father – the children’s grandfather – applied for contact. Their applications were amalgamated but they did not reach the courts till January of this year, following delays in the continuing Cafcass investigation. By that point the children had not seen their father or grandfather for three years.

Despite a new Cafcass report which did recommend direct contact, His Honour Judge Holt concluded that visits with the children should not take place, only indirect contact. The father would be provided with a school report and a photograph each year. The non-molestation order was maintained, but its provisions altered to allow the indirect contact.

The father appealed this ruling, but Lady Justice King concluded that the earlier ruling had been correct. The judge had provided grounds for disagreeing with the second Cafcass report.

She stated:

“The findings are as set out and are extremely serious, including as they do false imprisonment and threats to kill, findings which need to be considered against the background of the mother’s own family’s refusal to support her for reasons of the family’s ‘honour’.”

His Honour Judge Holt had referred to a risk that the children could be kidnapped if they had contact with their father, although this had not been referred to in earlier court hearings. Lady Justice King described this as “a significant and unfortunate error on the part of the judge”. However, she added that it was:

“…not a decisive factor providing a tipping point which would have led the court, once it had conducted the appropriate balancing exercise, to a conclusion which it would not, or could not, otherwise have reached.”

Read the full judgement here.

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