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Landmark case gives hope to victims

View profile for Sam Miles
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A recent case has given hope to victims of domestic violence when it comes to the safety of their children.  Sam Miles, Family Partner, explains the ruling in this particular circumstance, and what this means for future justice in domestic violence cases.

In the case of A v D (Parental Responsibility) [2013] EWHC 2963 (Fam),1 August 2013, the High Court terminated a father’s parental responsibility using an order under section 4(2A) of the Children Act 1989 (CA 1989).  The father was in prison for grave physical violence inflicted on the mother, part of which their 4 year old son had witnessed. Their son had special needs and exhibited highly distressed behaviour. His father showed no interest in him. There were concerns that following the father’s release from prison, he would locate them and cause trouble.

“This, unfortunately, is not an unusual set of circumstances,” begins Sam.  “In this case, a residence order was also granted permitting the mother to change her son’s forenames and surname to stop the father finding them when he was released from prison. The father did not oppose the orders and refused to attend the hearing.

“The fact that these orders were granted is highly unusual and is what makes this case so important to domestic violence victims.  Prior to this, it has been very difficult to extinguish parental responsibility, as there must be solid grounds for terminating parental responsibility. The court must consider whether parental responsibility would be granted if the father had no parental responsibility.”

Sam continues, “In this case, the Judge stated that the father’s behaviour made that ‘inconceivable’. The Judge also commented that ‘there was no element of parental responsibility that he could, in present or foreseeable circumstances, exercise in a way that would be beneficial to his son. He had never met the child’s needs and was unlikely ever to do so. He could jeopardise the child’s stability by using his parental responsibility to communicate with his mother and ‘create mischief’. The child’s overriding need for security outweighed the father’s right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.’ ”

Sam concludes, “Every family situation is different, and of course we’re not suggesting that this will be the outcome in every case.  This is a ground breaking decision however and will come as welcome news to victims of domestic abuse who fear that their abusive partner will use the existence of a child to continue to track them down.”

If you are the victim of domestic violence and need legal advice, contact Sam or the Family Team on 02380 717 431 or visit the Family section of our website here.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.