(Court of Appeal; Thorpe LJ and Bennett J; 4 July 2007)
The contact order provided that the father would see the children for 8 hours each Saturday and on Boxing Day. The mother applied to the court to vary the contact order on the grounds that the father drank too much, and was aggressive and threatening in front of the children, so that they were frightened of him. The father applied to enforce the contact order. The eventual result was an order that the father should have only indirect contact with the children by way of Christmas, Easter and birthday cards and two other letters each year. The father applied for permission to appeal that order.
The father's position about his relationship with the children and the breakdown in his relationship with the mother had not been given adequate consideration by the CAFCASS officer in his report and there was no evaluation or analysis of whether or not contact could be restarted by way of supervised contact. The CAFCASS officer did not appear to have considered this question until under cross-examination in the hearing which led to the indirect contact order.
The father produced evidence of an organisation which was dedicated to assisting children coping with the impact of family breakdown and which offered support for children and their families. In particular it offered help and guidance to reduce and potentially eliminate anger in parents. Public funding was available.
The judge did not have the benefit of this information in the original hearing and as such was not able to see that there was the possibility of the relationship between the children and their father being restored. Permission to appeal would therefore be granted and the appeal would be allowed, with the appropriate referral being made to the family assistance organisation.