IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)
ON APPEAL FROM CHELMSFORD COUNTY COURT
(HIS HONOUR JUDGE RICHARDS)
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE WALL
|IN THE MATTER OF A (Children)|
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MR D PEARS (instructed by Hill & Abbott) appeared on behalf of the Respondent.
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"As Social Services did not do anything about contact I arranged it with [the father] myself. When he first left contact was pretty minimal. This was his choice, not mine. He had them very occasionally for a few hours on a Sunday. I get on well with the Applicant's family and I kept in contact with them. His sister and I go to the same Church although since J's birth I go less frequently. I used to take S and J to his family celebrations although the [father] himself was not there. From my calendar I can tell that on 19 February 2005 and 6 March 2005 I took the children to a big family party on each occasion for a paternal cousin's birthday. On 12 March 2005 it was J's first birthday and I invited all of the Applicant's family round. They all came and the Applicant himself came for a short period of time. He did not bring either a present or a card for J. On 9 April 2005, again I took the children to a paternal cousin's birthday party with his family. From 11 to 15 April I took all the children on holiday with Mrs A (the Applicant's sister) and all of her children…I set this out to show that I was able to maintain regular contact between the children and their paternal family and indeed I have continued to do so. I get on very well with them all in particular Mrs A.
"For the first year or so after the applicant left I can say that J did not have any overnight contact with [him]. I think S may have stayed very occasionally, perhaps once or twice. The [father] kept threatening that he would take me to Court but he never did. In mid May 2005 I agreed to an overnight stay for J for the first time. I agreed with the Applicant that if J was upset that it would not happen again. J has never stayed on his own, S has always been with him. Since May 2005 until the breakdown of contact at the beginning of this year I would say that J and S have stayed with the Applicant about 8 to 10 times. This has never been for more than one night. Additionally S has had extra one night stays but not very many. These have been for example when a friend stayed over with her. The Applicant arranged this without my knowledge."
"The social worker observes that S loves both her parents and wishes they still lived together. I have considered the issue of supervision. It appears to me that supervision has permitted happy contact and has provided reassurance to the mother and has gone to some extent to ameliorate her concerns. The mother told me that she would not expect contact to be supervised forever but that she did not know when supervision could be removed. It seems to me that supervision is only necessary in two circumstances, firstly to reassure the child and secondly for the child's safety. The father impressed me as a witness. He was careful, measured and sensitive. He is in tune with the needs of the children and as a father who understands the needs of his children. He has moved on considerably in respect of his domestic violence. I am satisfied that the mother is a loving and caring mother and would like her children to have a natural relationship with their father. The aftermath of this difficult relationship has left her feeling somewhat vulnerable and over protective. My view is that the best way to effect her wish for a more natural relationship between the children and their father is for contact to take place. I feel the children will be reassured by some supervision for a short period of time if the aunt or grandmother were able to offer some supervision, but the social worker was clear that contact is more important than supervision. In my view there should be contact in accordance with the wishes and feelings of S and I make an interim order for contact fortnightly starting this Saturday as follows …"
The judge then set out the order which I have already recited.
"1.1 In every case in which domestic violence is put forward as a reason for refusing or limiting contact the court should at the earliest opportunity consider the allegations made and any answer to them and decide whether the nature and effect of the violence alleged by the complainant or admitted by the respondent is such as to make it likely that the order of the court for contact will be affected if such allegations are proved."
Order: Application refused.