Rotherham Child Exploitation Scandal
Sammy Woodhouse is a survivor of the Rotherham Child Exploitation scandal. Recently she campaigned to the media that Rotherham council, had sought to involve her child’s father. Her child had been conceived by rape.
Arshid Hussain was jailed for 35 years in 2016.
Arshid Hussain was not on the child’s birth certificate, and was never married to Sammy Woodhouse.
Both Labour MP Louise Haigh and Sammy Woodhouse are campaigning together to have the Children Act changed. “We’re campaigning for a change to stop the courts being used to re-traumatise victims and remove the rights of men who’ve fathered children through rape.”
The law states that councils applying for care orders must inform; “every person whom the applicant believes to be a parent without parental responsibility for the child.”
Local authorities can apply to the court, to request permission not to notify parents without parental responsibility about care proceedings. Rotherham council stated that they were not aware of such exceptions, and seek further clarification of the law.
What does the Law say?
In England and Wales, the law states that all parents, regardless of whether or not they have parental responsibility should be given notice of care proceedings. Those without parental responsibility are not automatic parties to any proceedings. They can apply to be parties.
Where a child is in the care of a local authority the local authority should allow the parents “reasonable contact”. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each child, their welfare would be the first and paramount consideration..
Councils can seek an order that they do not have to notify a parent about proceedings, such an order is very unusual but the issue of the child being conceived following rape would no doubt be a very relevant consideration.
Nigel Bowman is a member of the Law Society Children’s panel, and has expertise in child care and family law. Nigel predominantly acts for children and parents in care proceedings and private law children matters.
Legally, a father has a right to be informed of care proceedings for his child. If he does not have parental responsibility he is not an automatic party to the case, he can apply for party status and the court will then decide if he should be a party.
I expect that if a child was conceived by rape that would be a relevant factor in deciding whether the father could be a party to the case.
Just because he is a party does not mean he should have contact. If a child is removed subject to a care order, the local authority does have to offer reasonable contact to the parents.
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