(Court of Appeal, Thorpe, Arden, McFarlane LJJ, 15 November 2012)
The father of two children, aged 9 and 7, was diagnosed with alcohol dependency syndrome. The local authority established a contact regime between the father and children. All direct contact was terminated following an incident at the older child's birthday party where the father asked the children a number of probing questions about the mother and her partner and recorded their responses. The father consumed alcohol and got involved in an altercation with the mother and a number of other adults at the party.
At a fact-finding hearing the judge found that the father lacked insight into his behaviour and that he would be unlikely to change unless he stopped drinking. The judge determined that having no direct contact for the foreseeable future was in the best interests of the child. The father appealed.
The appeal was dismissed. The judge had rightly started from the basis that contact should take place but the judge had ample evidence to demonstrate that the father would continue to harass the mother in the manner he had done so at the party and that it was impacting on the mother's health and well-being.