Good Heavens! An honest judge!? Can this be? Could there perhaps be just one in New Zealand or anymore else in the world?
Vengeful mothers leave good fathers powerless to see child, says judge
Rosemary Bennett, Social Affairs Correspondent
May 1, 2008
A senior judge spoke out against child access law yesterday, saying that the courts were powerless to help decent fathers to see their children if vengeful mothers stood in the way.
Lord Justice Ward made his comments after telling a father that there was nothing he could do to help him to re-establish contact with his teenage daughter who had been turned against him by her “vicious” mother.
The “drip, drip, drip of venom” poured into the daughter’s ears by the mother included accusations of sexual abuse against the innocent father after the couple divorced, the judge said.
The former wife’s tactics were so successful that the daughter wrote to her father when she was 9 saying that she wished he was dead. The daughter is now 14. The identity of the family must be kept secret to protect her privacy.
Lord Justice Ward told the father that the case was bordering on scandalous but the court was compelled to act solely in the best interests of the child. The girl would be too distressed if she was forced to spend time with her father after her mother’s “corrupting” campaign, he said.
“The father complains bitterly, passionately and with every justification that the law is sterile, impotent and utterly useless - we have to acknowledge there is a degree of force in what he says,” the judge told the Court of Appeal Civil Division.
“But the question is what can this court do? The answer is nothing. This is a truly distressing case. It may not be untypical of many, but in some ways it borders on the scandalous. It certainly is tragic.”
Between 15,000 and 20,000 couples go to court to resolve child access disputes each year. Campaigners say that the courts too often side with the mother, are too ready to believe what she says and rarely take action if contact orders are flouted. They want courts to start from a legal presumption of shared parenting between mothers and fathers.
Yesterday’s case involved parents who were briefly married in the 1990s but parted while their daughter was a baby. Contact between father and daughter was maintained at first but gradually disintegrated, according to the judge.
During rows over access, the mother, who lives near Lincoln, accused him of sexually abusing their child. But in 1997 a judge ruled that her allegations were wholly unfounded. However, Lord Justice Ward told the court yesterday that the mother had convinced the child that her father was guilty.
“The seeds of poison had been sown and from it has grown a wall of dislike, bordering on hatred, for the father,” he said. He described the letter written by the girl as “the most ghastly, horrible, letter for a nine-year-old girl to write to her father”. It read: “This is what I really think about you. I hate you and you frighten me. You made my life miserable and stressful. I wish you would die. Leave me alone.”
Despite this, the father went to Lincoln County Court in 2004 in an attempt to re-establish contact. A judge ruled that he should be allowed to see her under the supervision of a priest. That turned out to be distressing for the girl and the arrangement broke down. The girl insisted that she had been sexually abused.
Lord Justice Ward refused the father permission to appeal against his decision, but told the court that the mother was to blame and a copy of his judgment would be given to her and her daughter to read.
“The mother is, in my view, the source of this state of affairs by corrupting this girl so viciously and turning her against her father. That is the most I can do for you, with a heavy heart. It is a public scandal that these things go wrong.”
After the hearing the father said: “This situation exemplifies what is wrong with the family justice system.” He said he would consider taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights.