A convicted sex offender has been refused permission to visit his eight year-old son.
Q v Q concerned a child born in 2007, referred to in the judgement as ‘M’. Unfortunately in 2009 the father was arrested for sexually abusing his nephew. The parents separated “almost immediately” and the father has not seen M since that time. He pleaded guilty to the offence during his subsequent trial and was sentenced to three years community service with supervision.
Following the trial the mother petitioned for divorce and later for a residence order, giving her the legal right to continue looking after the boy. The father countered with a request for a contact order and disclosure of his son’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, the mother made various allegations of violence and abuse against the father but a judge decided against holding a fact finding hearing regarding these.
A few months before a scheduled hearing into the competing applications, the father completed his community service order. A matter of weeks later however, the father was arrested for another sexual offence, this time involving a 16 year-old. He again pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail.
The continuing case regarding M was delayed on multiple occasions. The father eventually received ‘exceptional case’ funding from the Legal Aid Agency and was therefore represented in court.
The case eventually came before Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, at the Royal Courts of Justice. Following the hearing the President ‘reserved judgement’ (delayed the announcement of his ruling).
He has now ruled against the father. In a concise judgement, Sir James considered the practical difficulties of allowing the father supervised contact with his son.
“It is, in my judgment, wholly unrealistic to expect the mother to supervise contact – she would not be able to cope and in any event she lacks the necessary skills to do so – just as it would be wholly inappropriate for that task to be undertaken by any of the father’s family or friends. In my judgment, any form of contact, direct or indirect, will require – now and well into the future – to be supervised or monitored by appropriately skilled professionals, alert to the kind of dangers that a convicted sex offender like the father may pose even to his own son.”
Neither the father or his lawyers had been able to identify, said the Judge:
“… any practical and safe mechanism by which indirect contact could be facilitated or, more generally, any appropriate form of professional input that might be available to facilitate and monitor contact, whether indirect or direct. Indeed, that has been the reality throughout these proceedings.”
Consequently, the father’s application should be dismissed.
The ruling is here.
Photo by Horia Varlan via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence