A father with a history of violence and criminality should be not be informed of care proceedings concerning his child, a family court judge has declared.
The case concerned three siblings, referred to in the judgement as ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’. All were aged under 10. In order to secure the family’s anonymity, the Judge referred to their mother as ‘B’ and the father of Y and Z as ‘H’. The father of X, the oldest child, was a different individual called CD.
The local authority wanted to take the children into care. H had parental responsibility and was therefore entitled to take part in the care proceedings. But CD, by contrast, did not hold parental responsibility – a status only conferred to unmarried fathers if their name is listed on the child’s birth certificate. Therefore he had no automatic right to participation in the care proceedings. In the normal course of events, however, he would be entitled to notice of the proceedings, under the Family Procedure Rules 2010.
However, the local authority wanted an order permitting them to bypass this requirement and the mother backed their request.
The mother had originally begun living with CD after his release from a prison sentence. During their time together she became pregnant with X but before the eventual birth the father received another prison sentence for dishonesty and was behind bars when X was born.
He was released after 12 months but then almost immediately convicted of yet another unspecified offence at Crown Court and sent back to jail. He was eventually released in 2009 but the couple did not move back in together, although the mother did allow him to visit X on occasion.
They had a highly fractious relationship. CD was controlling, frequently violent and made regular threats she complained. The Police accepted that he posed a risk to the mother.
Eventually, after an incident during which he reportedly tried to break into her home, the mother moved to a different part of the country to escape CD, taking X with her. She broke off contact and he has made no legal attempt to see his child since. Nevertheless the mother became convinced that he was trying to find her illicitly.
In the Family Court His Honour Judge Clifford Bellamy noted that:
“Although the mother has not seen CD since that last incident, she is convinced that he has been attempting to track her down. In her oral evidence the mother told the court that when she was last in contact with CD in 2010 he told her he had paid a private investigator to find her and that he would come to her home and throw acid in her face. After moving to the area where she now lives she received an approach from a third party informing her that CD had been looking for her and had offered money to find her. When she attended to sort out her benefits she was informed that someone had tried to impersonate her and had asked for details of her address.”
CD is currently serving yet another prison sentence, this time for violence and has not seen X for almost five years.
Judge Bellamy explained:
“The mother is concerned that if CD were made aware of these proceedings there is a real risk that he would seek her out and that he would become threatening and violent towards her and her family. She continues to be fearful of him.”
Judge Bellamy considered the ramifications of Article8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which governs the right to respect for private and family life, and Article 6, which concerns the right to a fair trial.
He concluded that:
“I am satisfied that the relationship between CD and X lacks the elements necessary to support a finding that de facto family ties had been created such as to entitle him to respect for family life pursuant to Article 8 . As a result, CD is not entitled to the benefit of the rights guaranteed by Article 6. In order to succeed on its present application the local authority does not, therefore, need to establish the high level of exceptionality that would otherwise be the case.”
He accepted the mother’s claims of domestic violence and believed her fear of CD was a genuine one. The fact that the father had no rights under Article 8 was sufficient reason to grant the local authority’s request for an exception to the normal regulations and not provide him with notice of the care proceedings the Judge declared.
“I am satisfied that, if CD became aware of these proceedings, that would give rise to a degree of risk to the mother and her family, albeit that I assess that risk and its consequences as being no more than moderate.”
Read Re CD in full here.