Our articles are written by experts in their field and include barristers, solicitors, judges, mediators, academics and professionals from a range of related disciplines. Family Law provides a platform for debate for all the important topics, from divorce and care proceedings to transparency and access to justice. If you would like to contribute please email editor@familylaw.co.uk.
A day in the life Of...
Read on

Lord Justice Ward criticizes child access law

Date:1 MAY 2008
A senior judge criticized child access law yesterday for allowing a mother, through a drip, drip, drip of venom", to alienate a 14 year old girl from her father.

The case, which has now lasted over 12 years and has been heard in front of over 25 different judges, involved a mother systematically turning her daughter against her father, following the breakdown of their marriage.

Lord Justice Ward said that he was powerless to do anything to help re-establish contact between the father and daughter. The daughter's view of her father had become so corrupted by her "vicious" mother that at the age of nine she wrote a letter to him saying she no longer wished to see him and she wished he was dead. Ward LJ described the letter written by the girl as "the most ghastly, horrible, letter for a nine-year-old girl to write to her father".

By 2004 the daughter stated that it was her firm belief that her father had sexually abused her as a very young child, despite the fact that all such allegations were ruled to be wholly unfounded in 1997.

In rejecting the final appeal against a ruling that there should be no contact between father and daughter, on the basis that the girl's misguided beliefs would make contact distressing, Lord Justice Ward said: "The father complains bitterly, passionately and with every justification that the law is sterile, impotent and utterly useless - we have to acknowledge there is a degree of force in what he says.

"But the question is what can this court do? The answer is nothing. This is a truly distressing case. It may not be untypical of many, but in some ways it borders on the scandalous. It is certainly tragic."

He went on to clearly identify the mother as "the source of this state of affairs by corrupting this girl so viciously" and declared it to be "a public scandal that these things go wrong."

Lord Justice Ward took the unusual step of ordering that a copy of his judgement be sent to both the mother and the daughter's solicitors, with a direction that the solicitor communicate the message to the daughter, and report back to the judge.