Two children have been taken away from their father after he defended the use of corporal punishment.
Rotherham Borough Metropolitan Council v L & Ors concerned the man’s youngest child. The eldest had already been taken into care by the local authority and placed with his maternal uncle.
This action was taken because of the father’s steadfast conviction that smacking children was an acceptable form of discipline. He had admitted hitting his children “on the bottom, leg and arm and that he used his hand causing red marks on their bodies”. Furthermore, the initial judge ruled that he was “rigid and inflexible in his thinking” and “both unwilling and unable to listen or change”.
Rotherham Borough Metropolitan Council argued that the father’s actions when the mother fell pregnant a second time showed that he had not changed since the first hearing. The council claimed that the parents had deliberately tried to hide the mother’s pregnancy from them. To do this, they went to a hospital in another area to give birth and tried to conceal their identities, but they were soon discovered.
Once the council learned of the attempted deception, the baby, identified in the judgment as ‘E’, was taken from the parents under a police protection order. This power is granted to police by Section 46 of the Children Act 1989, and gives them the authority to remove a child from a situation where they could be harmed and place them in more suitable accommodation. In this case, E was placed alongside her brother with their maternal uncle.
The council applied for E to remain with her uncle under a special guardianship order. This would give him parental responsibility for her.
Sitting at the Family Court in Sheffield, Her Honour Judge Sarah Wright said that the parents’ attempt to conceal the pregnancy meant they did not seek adequate antenatal care, “thereby putting the unborn baby at risk”.
The judge also declared that while she was sure that the mother “loves E very much and … desperately wishes to care for her”, the child’s best interests would be served by remaining with her uncle. Therefore, she approved the special guardianship order in his favour.
To read the full judgment, click here.
Photo of Rotherham by Ben Sutherland via Flickr