In a case which tells us more about the conflicting processes of the legal system than it does about the merits of this case, a woman who tried to stab her baby to death has been given the right to contact by Justice Mostyn in the family courts, three years after the event, after spending time in jail for the attempted murder of her child.
Whilst in jail in 2011, the mother was also given the chance to spend time with her daughter, who was by then 3 years old. Permission was granted by the Family Courts.
The mother faced an awful predicament: she was married to her cousin, in an arranged ceremony. The marriage was deeply unhappy. Upon seeking to leave the matrimonial home, the husband told her to go back to her native country, but that she couldn’t take their daughter with her. The mother’s response was to issue a threat of her own: if I can’t take our daughter, then no one will have her.
When the room she was in was empty, the mother stabbed her baby daughter in the stomach. She was caught attacking her child by her husband, who came into the room shortly after the attack started.
Despite the mitigating circumstances, we feel this case belies possible mental health issues, either spurred on by a deeply difficult marital life or perhaps prior to the marriage itself, we cannot see any justification for encouraging contact with a child’s attacker, regardless of whether or not they are a birth parent.
The twist to this story comes in the mother’s application for contact itself – she was due to be deported to her home country shortly after serving her jail sentence. By invoking her Article 8 rights under the law (Right to Private and Family Life), and by gaining contact with her daughter, she has effectively managed to remain in Britain. And although it appears from the facts in this piece from the Mail that the mother came to England reluctantly, we can’t help but feel that she would not be welcome in her home country, as a divorcee with a prison term under her belt for trying to murder her own daughter.
It also strikes us as odd that this parent should have been able to invoke Article 8 – after trying to kill her own baby daughter, it is hard to justify enforcing such a right in the face of the ultimate test inherent within the Paramountcy Principle: the risk of future harm.
And this is what seems so bizarre to us. How can a court award contact, to a parent who clearly poses a terrible threat to a small child, without so much as a psychiatric report in sight. How do the courts know what kind of a threat the mother poses to her child and what support will there be when the child finds out her mother tried to kill her? These are all very concerning questions, for which we don’t seem to have any answers.
This mother could quite clearly be viewed as an unfit parent, and yet thousands of families every day in the family courts are denied contact on fleeting observations made under extreme work conditions, in a system which is buckling under the stress of delay and lack of resources.
We find it astounding.
Mostyn, sir, what on Earth is this all about?