A children’s social worker who received a “Draconian” ban from seeing his daughter has been given permission to appeal the decision.
In R (A Child), the girl’s parents married in 2003, a year after she was born, before separating in November 2004. The couple’s divorced was finalised in 2008.
During this time, the father’s contact with his daughter, who was identified in the judgment as ‘R’, was “greatly reduced and then stopped”. The father claimed this was because “the mother told him he was no longer to see [R]”. The last time he saw her in person was September 2005.
He did not attempt to rectify this until 2011, when his solicitors wrote to the mother expressing his desire to re-establish contact. The following year, the local court ordered that contact was to be resumed, but not in person. The father could send a card each month for eight months, and every other week after that.
The mother claimed R had reacted with “hostility” to the cards and would often throw them away without opening them. In 2013, a report was commissioned by the court after allegations that the daughter’s views “were not in truth her own but those of her mother”.
A Cafcass officer who carried out the report said R was “adamant that she did not wish to have contact with her father” and expressed “obvious discomfort when talking about him”. The judge made an order which stopped all contact between the father and daughter unless she chose to initiate it.
Sitting at the Court of Appeal in London, Lord Justice Christopher Clarke said that the order “is rightly described as Draconian”. He added that the time the father was able to see his daughter was very short as it only lasted from when she was born to when she was three and a half years old. Conversely, the time he has been unable to see her has been very long, as she is now 12.
The judge said that R’s reluctance to see her father was “not based on any particular incident or any experience of actual contact”. An earlier judge had described him as a “decent man”.
Lord Justice Clarke concluded that the judge who made the order to stop contact had not “grappled with available alternatives” in order to promote better contact arrangements. Therefore he allowed the father to appeal the decision.
To read the full judgment, click here.
Photo by Paul Simpson via Flickr