(Family Division, Baker J, 12 April 2013)
When the mother gave birth to her sixth child the father's name was registered and recorded on the birth certificate, which vested him with parental responsibility. The parents' relationship was turbulent and when they separated two of the mother's older children, by a different father, then aged 10 and 9, made allegations against the father and he was subsequently charged with a series of sexual offences against the girls. He pleaded guilty and received a 4-year custodial sentence.
The father expressed his wish to have contact with his child while in prison but upon his release his licence conditions prohibited it. In the absence of direct contact being a possibility the father sought annual updates on the child's progress by virtue of a specific issue order.
The mother applied for an order terminating the father's parental responsibility and the court ordered a consultant clinical psychologist to be instructed and provide information to the court as to any risk the father posed to the child in light of his criminal convictions and psychological profile. The report concluded that the father posed a low risk of sexual abuse to the child due to the fact that he was a boy and also that many sexual offender's he had come across often had not abused their own children.
The father had changed his stance on the offences on several occasions, altering his admission of guilt to one of innocence on the basis that he pleaded guilty only to prevent the girls from having to give evidence.
The Cafcass officer reported that currently the child did not wish to have contact with the father and that his self esteem and position in the family were affected by the fact that he was seen as his father's child. The officer recommended a s 91(14) order to prevent the father from making further applications.
The judge found the evidence of the psychologist regarding risk assessment to be worthless and his various statements about paedophiles ran contrary to all the understanding about the dangerous and deceitful behaviour of paedophiles the court had come across many times. By contrast the evidence of the Cafcass officer was persuasive and perceptive.
The magnetic factors in the case were the child's emotional needs, the harm he had suffered and the risk of future harm. Although the child's wishes not to see his father were influenced by his mother and siblings they were rooted in the reality of his life. All of the factors pointed towards terminating the father's parental responsibility and dismissing his application for annual progress updates. The rights of the father and child under Art 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 to have a family life together were outweighed by the child's overriding need to security within his family.