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Court terminates father’s parental responsibility

First reported case on issue since 1995 determines child’s needs justify termination of PR

In the first reported judgment on the issue since 1995, Mr Justice Baker has terminated the parental responsibility of a father who had been imprisoned for sexual abuse of his own child's half-sisters.

CW v SG [2013] EWHC 854 (Fam) concerned D who was born to the parties in 2004.  In 2009 the respondent pleaded guilty to sexual offences committed on two of the applicant mother's daughters. He was sentenced to a total of 48 months imprisonment. He was released at the halfway point in June 2011.

Immediately upon his release from prison, the applicant issued an application for the termination of his parental responsibility.  The respondent applied for a specific issue order requiring the mother to supply annual reports as to the child's progress.

The only other reported case on the termination of parental responsibility dates back to 1995: Re P (Terminating Parental Responsibility) [1995] 1 FLR 1048 at 1053.  In that case Singer J allowed an application to terminate parental responsibility (acquired by a parental responsibility agreement) in relation to a father who had been sent to prison for causing serious injuries to his child. The judge held that the order was justified as the father had "forfeited" his parental responsibility and, in considering the merits of the application for parental responsibility in these circumstances, a court would not have granted the application.

Counsel for the father argued that Re P could be sharply distinguished on both the facts and the law, and in particular because Re P was decided before the Adoption Act 2002 and Human Rights Act 1998 and therefore could not necessarily be read in line with the current statute. In addition, it was argued that the 'no order' principle ought to be applied, and moreover that the presumption of continuance of parental responsibility, rather than termination should be followed as the first principle in the case. It was also argued unsuccessfully that section 4(2A) of the Children Act 1989 is incompatible with Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The judge concluded that the "magnetic factors" in this case were D's emotional needs, the harm he had suffered, and the risk of future harm. He concluded that D's emotional security would be imperilled were the father to continue to have any further involvement in his life. The father's parental responsibility was terminated and his application for a specific issue order was rejected. 

Andrew Lorie of 3PB (instructed by Grenville J Walker ) acted for the applicant mother and Saoirse Townshend of 36 Bedford Row (instructed by Galbraith Branley) acted for the respondent father.

The judgment and summary, written by Saoirse Townshend can be read here.