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Mother fails in bid to name her daughter after poison

A Welsh mother has lost her appeal against a ruling that she cannot name her baby daughter ‘Cyanide’.

The mother also hoped to name the girl’s twin brother ‘Preacher’.

The 30 year-old had been diagnosed with a “psychotic disorder” and schizophrenia. At the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice King noted:

“She does not accept this diagnosis and has been unable to comply with her treatment.”

By the team the twins were born, her three older children had all been taken into care, due to her mental illness and drug and alcohol misuse. When social workers heard that the mother was pregnant again, they were convinced she would not able to look after her new children either and launched care proceedings straight after the birth.

While still in hospital the mother told a midwife the names she had planned.  The latter duly alerted social workers and efforts were made to try and persuade the mother to change her mind.

The mother insisted that Cyanide was a “lovely pretty name” which was linked with plants and flowers. Its history of use as a method of suicide by “very bad people” was also positive she believed. Preacher, meanwhile, was a “strong spiritual name” and “rather cool”, a name that would “stand my son well for the future”.

A family court forbade the names and issued an injunction. Her lawyers appealed, arguing that this prohibition breached her human right to respect for family life.

But Lady Justice King was not convinced. Following a detailed analysis of the legal principles, she concluded that the name Cyanide was likely to cause the girl “significant emotional harm”. Her older siblings should choose a new name for her instead, she ruled.

Preacher, meanwhile, was a less objectionable name, but it was not advisable, believed the Judge, to maintain the boys’ chosen name while changing his sister’s.

“It is not unusual for a child, with even the most commonplace name, to ask how his or her name was chosen. This is made more likely in the case of an unusual name, such as “Preacher” and in circumstances where the children concerned are not living with their natural parents. The only possible response that his carers would be able to make in response to such a question, would be to tell the boy twin that it was the name that his birth mother had chosen for him. This would lead to the inevitable question from the girl twin as to whether her name had also been chosen for her by her mother and, if not why not? She would undoubtedly ask what name her mother had given to her and why it had been changed. The outcome of such a predictable conversation would be to expose the girl twin to a significant part of the very harm the court seeks to prevent; she would know not only that her mother had chosen to call her “Cyanide”, but also to have to come to terms with the fact that she was to have been named after a notorious poison, whilst her twin brother was to be given the name of a respected member of society, ‘Preacher’.”

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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