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Louisa Gothard
Louisa Gothard
Senior Solicitor, Head of Family Law
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CONTACT: Re F (Indirect Contact) [2006] EWCA Civ 1426
Date:1 NOV 2006

(Court of Appeal; Phillips LCJ, Thorpe and Wilson LJJ; 1 November 2006)

The mother had been the victim of the father's violence on many occasions; the child had witnessed violence against the mother, but had not herself been subjected to violence. The judge granted the father a parental responsibility order and an order for defined contact on the basis that the mother and father would not meet; the mother was granted a non-molestation order. The father ignored the terms of these orders, insisting on making direct contact with the mother, and repeatedly threatening her. Eventually the father was committed for numerous breaches of the orders; the mother and child moved into new accommodation and acquired new identities with the help of the Police Domestic Violence Unit. The father continued his efforts to track down the mother, and had been sentenced for harassment of the mother's parents. The President revoked the parental responsibility order and made a s 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 order, but also ordered indirect contact between the father and the child, arranging on his own initiative for CAFCASS Legal in London to be used as a neutral intermediary which could vet the contents of any communication to ensure that they were appropriate. The mother appealed on basis that the arrangements were not safe and that the guardian had opposed any contact.

The court was not prepared to accept that CAFCASS would not be able to fulfil the promise made of a safe system. The guardian had opposed indirect contact at the hearing on the ground of the child's safety, not on that of the child's emotional well-being. The appeal was dismissed.