(Family Division, Moor J, 2 February 2017)
Private law children – Contact – Domestic violence – Practice Direction 12J
The mother’s appeal from an order for direct contact between the father and child was allowed.
The parents of the, now 5-year-old, child separated in 2012 when the mother went into a refuge. There had been numerous allegations and counter-allegations ever since.
A fact-finding hearing took place in order to resolve the issue of direct contact with the father. A number of findings were made regarding violence perpetrated by the father and threats to kill the mother. The father’s appeal was dismissed.
On the issue of contact, despite the Cafcass report advising against direct contact the judge found that since violence had not been perpetrated against the child she was not at risk. A period of indirect contact was ordered followed by direct contact to be supervised or supported. The mother appealed.
The appeal was allowed. The judge directed that a s 7 risk assessment of the father should be completed and the matter remitted to the Family Court.The judge below failed to consider Practice Direction 12J and his judgment did not address why it was right to permit direct contact at this time. The Cafcass officer had serious concerns regarding allegations of the father’s drug use and the fact that drug testing had not been completed yet. Further, given the findings of domestic violence and the father’s pattern of coercive control there was a high risk of future violence.