New UK law could mean that convicted paedophiles are stripped of their parental rights to see their own children

April 19, 2024

The proposed change, which means that convicted paedophiles are stripped of their parental rights to see their own children, comes about as a result of a Cardiff Family Court ruling in a mother’s favour which stopped her paedophile ex-husband seeing their daughter until she turns 18.

After hearing the story on the BBC’s Today programme, Labour MP Harriet Harman tabled an amendment to upcoming legislation to cover the most serious sexual offence – rape of a child under 13. In future, Ms Harman reported, those guilty of this crime would be “automatically deprived” of their parental rights.

Speaking  further to the BBC, Ms Harman announced, “It’s a glaring anomaly that while the law protects other people’s children from a sex offender, it doesn’t protect his own.”  She heavily criticised the current laws that protects a father’s rights over his children, even if he is a convicted paedophile, by unequivocally stating “That’s obviously wrong, because it’s the rights of the child that should be at the forefront, not the rights of the father”.

It is understood the Lord Chancellor has agreed to the amendment.

The Family Law team at Bates Wells & Braithwaite welcomes this development and praised the commitment and perseverance of the Welsh mother who challenged the rights of the ex-husband in court, the role of the BBC in bringing this anomaly to public attention and the tenacity of the former Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman who proposed the amendment to upcoming legislation.

Scott Emsden, Partner, expert in children’s law,  says “Parental rights continues to be a sensitive family law issue and great inroads have been made to ensure fathers are not excluded when it comes to their children spending time with them as well as having a say in important decisions about their upbringing. However, in positioning these rights above a child’s best interests is nonsensical and in the case of convicted paedophiles, quite simply dangerous. It has been noted that these parental rights can be restored if the father in question applies to the family court and proves that restored contact is in the child’s best interest. We can only hope that common sense prevails, and that courts will not easily be persuaded to take this step in the case of a convicted child rapist.”

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