A mother has been forced to spend £30,000 to stop her paedophile ex-husband from having access to their daughter.
The mother, who uses the name Bethan to protect her and her child’s privacy, was horrified when her ex-husband, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, was recently jailed for child sexual abuse.
Court hearings detailed how the man has also admitted watching child sexual abuse material featuring incest, and grooming a vulnerable young person.
When he was sentenced, the court issued an order banning him from any future contact with children. However, the ban did not extend to preventing him from seeking contact with his own child, leaving Bethan “absolutely petrified”.
She fears that he may one day remove their daughter from school without her knowledge, meaning that the only way she could get her daughter back would be through the family courts.
She is also terrified that he could abuse her, adding: “You’d never forgive yourself.”
Details of her case, reported by the BBC, emerged on Monday as she told how she was forced to spend £30,000 on legal fees to ensure she could protect her child from her “manipulative” ex-husband.
More than £30,000 of legal fees
Bethan was married to the man when their daughter was born, which means he has parental rights allowing him at least a say regarding his children’s education, health and living situation.
Bethan’s parents extended the mortgage on their home to enable her to pay the mounting legal fees, which totalled more than £30,000, to protect the family from her ex-husband.
Bethan had asked a judge to remove her ex-husband’s parental rights and ban all contact until their daughter turns 18. This would include direct, indirect and via social media.
Following a string of hearings at a family court in Cardiff, a judge decided that Bethan’s daughter should always live with her and has ruled that her ex-husband – who is “extremely high-risk” – should have his parental responsibility “comprehensively restricted”.
The judge also forbade Bethan’s ex-husband’s requests for annual reports on his daughter detailing how she is doing, which he had claimed during hearings would “have exponential value to me”. The judge also imposed a barring order, making it increasingly difficult for Bethan’s ex-husband to apply to change the court’s decision once he leaves prison.
He will now only be informed if his daughter has a terminal illness or if they relocate abroad.
Bethan described the court’s decision as an “enormous relief”. “I was just so grateful,” she added.
Bethan’s mother said: “For the first time in three years they freed my daughter to be able to raise her child in a normal, happy, healthy way.
“We can’t explain how excruciatingly painful it has been.”
Parental rights suspended
The family believe that their case and others could avoid legal bills amounting to tens of thousands of pounds if the government changed the law so that paedophiles automatically had their parental rights suspended when they are sentenced, and only restoring them should they apply to a family court.
Following a pilot scheme launched in January, journalists have been able to report from inside the previously secretive family courts in three locations in England and Wales – Leeds, Carlisle and Cardiff – in a bid to improve transparency in the justice system and allow further scrutiny of the courts and local authorities.
Journalists are now able to report on proceedings provided they protect the anonymity of families involved, while previously they could only publish details of what they observe if judges agreed to alter the automatic reporting restrictions put in place to protect children’s privacy.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Family court judges are required to put the welfare of children first and can already make orders limiting the parental rights of those found guilty of such offences.
“We are also carefully reviewing the approach to parental access to make sure all children are kept safe.”