Glasgow sheriff removes convicted rapist’s parental rights in respect of son and orders nil contact
A sheriff in Glasgow has removed the parental rights of a convicted rapist in respect of his son and determined that it would not be in the best interests of the child to have any form of contact with him while still allowing him to have letterbox contact with his daughter.
Proceedings for contact were originally raised by the father, Mr M, in 2013. The mother, Ms M, later lodged a minute seeking to deprive him of his parental rights and responsibilities in respect of his son due to his conviction for rape. The children, who were unaware of the conviction, were referred to as ‘David’ and ‘Sarah’ throughout proceedings.
The case was heard in Glasgow Sheriff Court by Sheriff Andrew Mackie.
Card in the bin
The minuter and the respondent were formerly in a relationship for a period of 5 or 6 years and separated in late 2010 or early 2011. At the time the action was raised the children resided with their mother in Glasgow, with no permanence order having been made in respect of either of them.
The respondent had been involved in the supply of illegal drugs and was verbally and physically abusive towards the respondent during the relationship, which led to her hospitalisation on one occasion. Following David’s birth, he relocated from Glasgow to Fife due to a belief that his safety was under threat from another drug dealer to whom he owed money.
The minuter, who was aware of the respondent’s drug dealing, visited the respondent in Fife and stayed there on alternative weekends after Sarah was born. The respondent had no parental rights and responsibilities relating to Sarah.
The relationship later broke down due to the respondent’s infidelity. The minuter was agreeable to the respondent having contact with David and Sarah in Glasgow, but he did not wish to travel there out of fear for his safety. In the summer of 2013, the respondent raised an action seeking orders under section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 in respect of the children, including orders for direct and letterbox contact.
Following some initial contact visits with David, direct contact was stopped due to the upset being caused to David by the contact. No direct contact with Sarah occurred during this time. In 2015, he was sentenced to a period of imprisonment for the rape of a former partner, after which the minuter sought an order depriving the respondent of his parental rights and responsibilities relating to David.
In July 2016, the respondent sent a card addressed to the children to their maternal grandfather for delivery. This card was opened by the minuter but never shown to the children. A Christmas card sent in the same year was read to the children by the minuter, after which David put the card in the bin. Following receipt of this card David experienced some nightmares. The respondent ceased sending cards to the children in April 2017.
Evidence given by a child welfare reporter stated that David told her he got a ‘sore feeling’ in his stomach when he thought about the respondent, and that he worried about him coming to his home. It was submitted for the minuter that the court should prefer her evidence in respect of David’s wellbeing, and that all letterbox contact with Sarah should also be withdrawn as it would have a negative effect on him.
In reply, it was submitted for the respondent that the minuter had passed on her own views regarding letterbox contact to the children, in particular telling them that she had to give them the cards or she would get into trouble. In particular, David had been influenced negatively by the minuter, explaining why he was unable to articulate precisely why he did not like the respondent.
State of distress
In his opinion, Sheriff Mackie said of the minuter’s evidence: “The minuter appeared to give careful consideration to the questions posed by both agents and appeared to be giving straightforward responses. She did not appear to be obviously dissembling during her evidence nor did she appear to be prone to exaggeration.”
On the effect of the respondent’s cards, he said: “Although I have concluded that the minuter could have approached said letterbox contact in a more positive manner and that, when challenged by David about why she had to give said cards to him, she could have encouraged him to view the said contact in a more positive manner, I rejected the respondent’s submissions that the minuter had influenced David negatively towards the respondent in respect of the operation of both direct contact and letterbox contact.”
He continued: “One might have anticipated that, if the minuter was intent on influencing the said children against the respondent, she would have ensured that both of the said children had been negatively influenced. There was no evidence led that Sarah has been adversely affected, in any way, by receipt of the cards from the respondent.”
Addressing David’s views regarding the respondent, he said: “David has expressed a clear view that he does not wish any form of contact with the respondent. His body language during the meeting with the child welfare reporter gave me cause for concern, being suggestive of a child in a state of distress or withdrawal when discussing the respondent.”
However, in respect of Sarah, he said: “There is no evidence before the court that the continued operation of letterbox contact between the respondent and Sarah would cause upset or distress to Sarah or that such contact would cause further upset and distress to David. In these circumstances I am unable to conclude that recalling the order for letterbox contact with Sarah would be in her best interests.”
Distressed by mere presence
Turning to the minuter’s crave for the removal of the respondent’s parental rights in respect of David, Sheriff Mackie noted: “It is clear from his evidence and from his criminal convictions that the respondent has resorted to violence in the past and that he has done so in a domestic situation. It is also clear from his evidence and from his previous convictions that he has previously been involved in the supply of illegal drugs and that he has had illegal drugs in his possession as recently as during his period of release on licence between 15 June and 10 October 2017.”
Sheriff Mackie concluded: “It would be in David’s best interests, at this time, for an order to be granted suspending the respondent’s parental responsibility and parental right in respect of contact. As well as having accepted the evidence of the negative effect on David’s emotional wellbeing of the contact with the respondent, I accepted the evidence that David has been distressed by the mere presence of the respondent in the area of David’s home.”
For these reasons, the minuter’s craves for the withdrawal of letterbox contact and parental rights in respect of David were granted. Sheriff Mackie allowed letterbox contact in respect of Sarah to continue.
© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2021