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(Court of Appeal, Longmore, Underhill, Macur LJJ, 20 September 2013)
The mother of three children aged 7, 5 and 3, escaped the family home after experiencing significant domestic violence over a prolonged period and obtained accommodation at a refuge. The two older children had witnessed the violence towards the mother and had been subjected to over chastisement. A consultant forensic child and adolescent psychiatrist found the father to exhibit symptoms of several personality disorders. The mother claimed she feared the father would abduct the children out of the jurisdiction and for honour-based violence and death at the hands of or the instigation of the father.
The father's application for contact was refused on the basis of the judge's findings as to the truthfulness of the mother's fears. The father appealed.
The order for no contact was draconian and could only be proportionate if the court had considered and discarded all reasonable and available avenues to promote the children's rights to respect for their family life including in the interests of promoting their welfare throughout their minority, contact with their discredited father.
On the facts of the case the course had not been demonstrated to be proportionate to the legitimate end which the judge pursued in ensuring the viability and stable placement of the children with their mother. That was not to consider the question of proportionality anew but merely to review it in accordance with the challenge made in the appeal process. The appeal was allowed, the order set aside and the case remitted for re-hearing with a view to an informed investigation of any supervised contact resources appropriate to the particular circumstances of the case.
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