Sometimes one comes across cases that are quite different, or that have an element about them that is quite different, from most other cases one normally comes across. The recent High Court case P v O is one such case.
The remarkable feature of P v O was highlighted by Mr Justice Williams in the second paragraph of his judgment:
“This is a case which when it first entered my list and I looked at the case number (FD00P00001) I thought there must be some mistake because that case reference dates back to the year 2000, now some nineteen years ago. But, no, it was not. It related then to a girl called S, who was born on 18 April 1997 and so who is twenty-one now and will be twenty-two in April of this year. Litigation concerning her has been going on, on and off, in this country and in Australia for most of her life, I think, including her father being imprisoned in Australia for, I think, two charges of either making threats to kill or conspiracy to kill the mother.”
So we have a case which goes back nearly twenty years, and relates to a child who is now several years into her adulthood. What can there be left to argue about?
A clue to the answer lies in the last sentence of the above quote. In April 2015 the High Court made a non-molestation order which prohibited the father from communicating or making contact with the mother or S by letter, telephone, Skype, text message, e-mail, any means of electronic communication or through any social networking sites, including Facebook, save through the offices of the mother’s solicitors. Unusually, the order was not time limited, because of the highly exceptional circumstances of the case.
So to this judgment. In October last year the father applied to vary the terms of the order to allow him to communicate with S via the police force in Australia, with the intention of seeing whether S wished to communicate with or contact him.
The application was heard by Mr Justice Williams in the High Court. As he explained, the situation was further complicated by the fact that in May 2016 Bexley Magistrates’ Court made a ‘violent offender order’, which prevented the father or an agent acting on his behalf from contacting nine named individuals, including the mother and S. The violent offender order recorded that the father:
“is a qualifying offender because he has been convicted of the incitement to murder of the mother; and, whilst awaiting sentence, further conspired with others again to have her killed; and has acted in such a way that there is reasonable cause to believe it is necessary for the order to be made on the ground that the mother now lives in fear of her life and her family and friends have been subjected to threats; and she has now been placed under protective services to threats worldwide to protect her identity.”
Accordingly, as Mr Justice Williams pointed out to the father, an amendment to the non-molestation order would not help him, as he would still be bound by the violent offender order, which prevented him from having any contact at all with S. The father has apparently applied to have the violent offender order varied as well.
Unsurprisingly, both the mother and S opposed the father’s application, S making it clear that she wished to have nothing to do with her father at the present time. Mr Justice Williams accepted this.
Accordingly, Mr Justice Williams found that there was no basis upon which to vary the order. In any event, the order of course contained a clear mechanism by which the father could contact S, i.e. through the mother’s solicitors. The father’s application was therefore dismissed.
Now, there is nothing in the judgment to indicate that the father’s true motive for making the application was other than as he stated. However, in a case with such a serious history, it is not difficult to imagine that such an application would in reality be nothing more than another attempt to harass the daughter and/or the mother. In such circumstances I’m sure that the court would be very wary indeed about acceding to such an application, without the agreement of the person or persons that the order was designed to protect.
You can read the full judgment here.