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CW v SG  EWHC 854 (Fam) provides an interesting reminder on the minimal requirements of being a parent and may reflect a somewhat ‘new approach' to parenthood - not since 1995 have we had quite this situation of a father ‘losing' parental responsibility reported upon.
In 1995 we were told by Singer J that the father in Re P (Terminating Parental Responsibility)  1 FLR 1048 at 1053 had forfeited his parental responsibility through his violent behaviour and serious assaults upon the child. That case almost twenty years ago now was one of parental responsibility acquired via a parental responsibility agreement - one which the court would not have agreed had the circumstances been known about and the application been made at the time.
Human Rights works both ways but seems in many reported cases in the media to travel in only one direction - very often the wrong one as far as the general public is concerned. Section 4 (2A) of the Children Act is compatible with Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights despite arguments in CW v SG. Should there be a presumption of continuance of parental responsibility at all? It sounds harsh to suggest that such a presumption may well cost in terms of child care and welfare and serves merely to satisfy the Human Rights of the parent rather than the welfare of the child. Human Rights are important, but we know where the trump card lies.
The child's needs should always justify even the most extreme of steps and this is a timely reminder that parents do not own their children. One wonders whether coming over the horizon may be a stronger line on parental responsibility for mothers - or is that step just a little too far for most of us? The position of Mum and Dad in relation to the child may demonstrate (still) important differences in child care provision with the primary carer remaining the female in most situations, but there would be many in local authority social care who might argue that it was now time to spend a little less energy on the parents. Would that be too harsh to consider?
Penny Booth writes the CPD questions for the Family Law journal, law tutor and a retired law professor.
Contact Penny on Twitter: @Legalbirdie The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.
Contact Penny on Twitter: @Legalbirdie
The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.
The Red Book is the acknowledged authority on practice and procedure