Family judges recognise that children thrive best if they are able to form relationships with their natural parents. However, in an exceptional case, the High Court came to the aid of a domestic abuse victim in ruling that the welfare of her young children demanded that all contact between them and their violent father be severed.
The father had subjected the girls’ vulnerable mother to a campaign of physical and emotional abuse. She had obtained a restraining order against him after he seriously assaulted her and was sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment. The case was considered so extreme that she and the children had been accepted onto the UK Protected Persons Scheme and had been moved to a secret address.
After lawyers launched proceedings on behalf of the mother and children, the father made a number of admissions and accepted that the girls’ surnames and forenames should both be changed. He also agreed that the parental responsibility he held in respect of one of them should be terminated. However, he argued that he should be permitted indirect contact with his daughters, by letter, and that he should be provided with information concerning them as they grew up.
In ruling on the matter, the Court found that the anxiety and distress that the mother would inevitably suffer at the prospect of the father having any contact with their daughters would be bound to impact on her ability to care for them. The children needed to be protected from their father and even indirect contact would be seriously detrimental to their welfare.
Describing the case as truly exceptional, the Court directed that the father should be given no information about the girls, save in the event that one of them dies. The ban on contact would endure throughout their childhood. The success of any future application for contact – which could only be made with permission from a judge – would depend on proof that he was a changed man and that any risk he posed to the mother was very considerably reduced.