Welcome to another week.
The Australian press reports that a parent with an extensive history of threatening behaviour, assessed as at high risk of killing his children and himself, has been granted access to his children by a judge in court.
The parent had attempted to commit suicide several times, and threatened to kill the children’s mother, her partner and himself in 2012.
Supervised contact overseen by the father’s grandparents was awarded.
This decision stems from an expert opinion in the case, in which a doctor diagnosed the father with borderline personality disorder and advised that if the father did not get contact he would most likely feel he had nothing to lose and would remain at high risk of a’suicidal, murderous rage’. When asked by the court how he would react if he did not get contact, the parent replied, “I can’t predict the future.”
There are several concerning aspects to this case. The first is a less than perfect court system which puts highly controversial questions to parents and tries to ascertain the honesty, or lack of it, in the responses it hears without any psychiatric training on the judge’s part.
The second worrying aspect of this case is the impact of those answers on how a judge might award contact: in this case, an element of blackmail seems to take control of the proceedings and the judge feels he has no choice but to award contact in this instance, as he believes not doing so could put the children’s and their mother’s lives at risk, as well as others.
This judgment puts the children in a contact situation, not only with a parent who is considered high risk, but with that parent’s own parents, relying on them to ensure that the children are safe. Given that the overseers of the contact are the high risk parent’s own family, what are the chances that at some point they may feel it’s alright to leave the room the children are in at any time, or even allow for unsupervised contact at some point? Whilst the courts and the experts assigned to a case are under a duty to measure that risk, we do not know if they have, or indeed whether such assessments in this context could provide solid reassurances.
There will also be future impact on the children once they grow up and discover the extent of the proceedings.
Our question to you then, is just this: what do you think about this judgment, and is it in the best interests of the children, after all?
Thank you to the National Child Protection Alliance for sharing this story with us.