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Court of appeal decision sends warning to hostile parents

The Court of Appeal has recently dismissed a mother’s appeal against the decision to remove her daughter from her care as a result of the hostility she has displayed towards the child’s father.

Background

The mother of the 8 year old made false allegations against the child’s father, including alleging that he was a paedophile, and manipulated the child with regard to these allegations against her father, The mother was condemned by judges as being a child abuser who said that she had poisoned the child’s mind and had said that the child was frightened of her father, despite the fact that the child ‘delighted’ in spending time with him.

The mother had excluded the child’s father from school events and had told others of the allegation that he was a paedophile.

The original Judge dismissed the allegations made against the father and described the mother as a “worryingly obsessed woman” who had come to “believe her own propaganda.”

He authorised the local authority to remove the child from her mother’s care and place her into foster care.

Judgment

The mother challenged the decision to the Court of Appeal.  She stated that she was treated unfairly and had not been told of the possibility of her child being removed into care.

Lord Justice Ryder dismissed the mother’s appeal stating:  “Given the prevalence of false allegations made by the parents against each other…..conduct at this level by a parent should be understood to be serious child abuse.”

He further stated: “Even if the mother was suffering from some kind of behavioural or psychological condition, she had proved herself ‘bent on manipulation’ and the false stories she had told her daughter about her father were ‘inexcusable and highly damaging to the child’.

He said that the child had been encouraged by the mother to make allegations against her own father despite her own “delight” in seeing him, in the process of which the child had obtained an unhealthy knowledge of sexual issues.

He stated that the mother had no complaint of unfairness and had been clearly warned that she was at risk of having her daughter taken from her if her accusations against the father turned out to be false.

The Court of Appeal therefore ruled that the child had rightly been taken from her mother by social services and placed in foster care.

The mother’s success in turning her daughter against her father was such that an immediate placement with him was not possible and the child has therefore been placed in interim foster care.

The Shape of Things to Come?

The new Children and Families Act 2014 came into effect on 22 April 2014 and one of its aims is to make it clear to separated parents that both should be involved in a child’s life where it is safe and consistent to do so.

It reflects the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both parents following separation where it is in the child’s best interests to do so.

Judges usually practice an approach to children matters on the following basis:-

  • That children should not be involved in any adult dispute
  • That it is nearly always in a child’s best interests to remain in contact with both parents
  • That contact is the right of a child, not the right of the parents

The recent case above, therefore, suggests that where hostility between separated parents exists and the conduct of the parent results in a child being manipulated against the other to such an extent that becomes harmful and damaging to the child, the Court will view this as serious child abuse and will consider, where there is no other option, removing a child from that parent’s care.

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