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Father allowed to appeal ‘draconian’ contact decision

A father has been granted permission to appeal a “draconian” ruling that he could only contact his daughter by letters, cards and gifts.

In February, a Family Court judge in Cambridge made a Child Arrangements Order which said that the man’s seven year-old daughter, ‘YS’, should live with her mother. The judge also denied the father’s application to see YS in person even if he was supervised.

The parents met when the mother was 15 and the father was 21, but they had separated by the time YS was born. In 2009, the father was convicted of two child pornography charges although he maintained his innocence throughout the criminal proceedings and after he had served a 30 month prison sentence.

He continued to spend time with his daughter after his release, but the mother stopped contact, citing his “unreliability (as opposed to his offending)”. When he applied to secure some time with YS, the courts ordered an independent risk assessment due to the nature of his conviction.

The author of the assessment said that the father was “strongly attracted to adolescent girls but there is no evidence of paedophilia” and that the “risk of physical and sexual harm to YS is small”. He added that there was “no parenting circumstance where risk to a child from a parent is said to be non-existent”.

A report was also submitted by a Cafcass officer. Although she had some concerns, the officer concluded that “there should be direct contact with the father providing it could be safely supervised”.

Despite these recommendations, the initial judge denied the father’s request for supervised contact. He said that long term supervision of the father would not be appropriate. He also believed that seeing the father in person was “likely to disturb the mother” and child.

The father took his case to the Court of Appeal, where he claimed that the judge “had not given adequate reasons for his decision to reject the application”.

Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lady Justice King said that “the fact that there will have to be long term supervision of contact is not in itself a reason to refuse face to face contact”.

She added that there was “no evidential basis or judicial analysis” to support the original judge’s finding that the mother and child would be disturbed by seeing the father, which led to “the making of the draconian order that YS would not be able to see her father”.

With the support of the two other judges who heard the case, Lady Justice King allowed the father to appeal and ordered a rehearing in Cambridge.

To read Re S (A child) in full, click here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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