Quickhit: Ex-magistrate dismayed by sex offender visit

WTF was this other judge thinking?

A former Children’s Court magistrate says she is dismayed by a decision to reunite two young girls with their father, a registered sex offender.

A Family Court judge in Hobart has ruled that the girls must visit their father every second weekend provided another adult is present in the home overnight.

The father involved in the case has been convicted of accessing child pornography and possessing child abuse products. He will remain on the sexual offenders register for at least another year.

But the judge has declared that it is in the best interests of the girls, aged eight and 10, that they spend time with their father, who cannot be identified.

He says there needs to be a lock on the girls’ bedroom door as the “father acts impulsively from time to time and that the children need some protection from him, especially at night”.

He says there needs to be a lock on the door? And he still instructs that they must stay overnight?

*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

Categories: ethics & philosophy, law & order, parenting

6 replies

  1. It reeks of the court thinking that what’s important is the father’s rights, not of what’s best for the children. Children as possessions, not children as people.

  2. It does – but there’s another possible interpretation that’s worth thinking about – just to play devil’s advocate and not to say “this is definitely what’s going on this situation”.
    We don’t actually know what’s going on in the situation. I agree that there are alarm bells going off, and that the decision seems strange.
    Children who are abused, or children of potentially abusive parents, often love those parents. The court may have found that the father has not actually abused those girls in any way, that he may be actively trying to ensure that he does not abuse them (bar the odd “impulsive” act – gaahhhh), and that he and they deserve a chance to have some semblance of a relationship to build on that love – if that’s what they want.
    Now, it may be easy to say that a child’s love for an abuser or potentially abusive parent (I’m keeping in mind that we don’t know that he abused his daughters – the article said that what he was convicted of involved pornography and products – I don’t want to minimise those offences, but they are different from having actually abused his daughters – but those “impulsive” acts and the need for a lock on the door ring alarm bells!). But it may also not be healthy to just say to a child “right, that’s it, we’ve decided it’s best for you not to see your father any more”.
    In other words, it may actually be in the girls’ best interests to have a continuing – and supervised – relationship with their father.
    (There is also the possibility – although I have no idea what the likelihood of this is – that if something about their father was prohibited, they may be more likely to break the rules themselves, perhaps more open to temptation by him to sneak out of mum’s house and visit or something like that.)
    Having said this: in circumstances where the girls’ bedroom door needs to be locked, I think the decision to allow overnight visits is bizarre, to say the least. Surely there is nothing extra to be gained by that time that everyone is asleep? But perhaps it is an attempt to have some sort of normal relationship with the father, by allowing him to put them to bed (hopefully supervised!!!) and make them breakfast in the morning.
    If that’s what is going on, then I think the bigger problem is that that is seen to be the only possible normal relationship between the father and the children. Which is not the family’s fault, and it’s not the court’s fault. It’s a broader systemic problem.
    What I hope is this: no matter whether the reported access arrangements continue, or are replaced by others, I hope that both daughters have regular access to people they feel comfortable talking to, and that they are able to express their feelings about the situation they’re in AND to tell those people if their father does anything that makes them feel at all uncomfortable. I also hope that those people act appropriately on that information. That sort of openness, trust and action is the best way to try to ensure that they will never be in a situation where their father does anything that is actually wrong.

  3. @Jo:
    In the article I read (not the linked one), they quoted the elder daughter as being “uncomfortable” with the idea of having to stay overnight, and with having a close relationship with him at all. The article also claimed that the man invited his daughters to sleep in his bed with him, though this doesn’t exactly constitute abuse. What would be wrong with properly supervised visits as the means for him to exercise his right to see his children?
    Though I certainly do subscribe to the view that newspapers exaggerate where they can get away with it (and even when they can’t).

  4. Thanks Katherine. If the daughters don’t want the contact arrangement that has been reported, then I definitely agree that reduces the arguments FOR that contact arrangement to pretty much nothing.
    In that case, I go back to the concern I had when I first read the story, but which I lost sight of when writing my overlong comment (sorry, tigtog!). And that is that it seems to me that maybe the court is saying: “you should have as normal a possible relationship with your father – which means, in our narrow view of ‘normal’, sleeping over, albeit locked in” (side note: how the hell is that normal?).
    The problem, at least in part, is the narrow view of normal.
    (I also acknowledge that some relationships – including some parent-child relationships – are totally toxic and not worth preserving. I should have made that clear in my comment. However, I think that should be up to the people involved in those relationships to decide whether or not to preserve a relationship. Plus parent-child relationships have a fairly high degree of potential guilt built in, which means that if you have a toxic parent-child relationship, to a large degree, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Again, if we broadened our view of normal – eg re what is a normal family, with a bit of “what I owe you relates to what you contributed to my upbringing, not just the fact you contributed half my genes” thrown in – it could allay some of the guilt.)

  5. Thanks Jo, you have helped me clarify my thoughts on this issue. I was wondering if the other ‘adult’ that must be there as well could be the children’s mother, or if the other adult has to be female at all, known to the children or a trained social worker or just someone over the age of 18. Inviting the kids into bed to have a cuddle with Dad isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although Dad’s status as a registered offender does make it sound risky. But then I can’t assume that he would harm his own children, some offenders don’t go beyond looking at images, and some keep it outside the family if they do. I’m well aware that some don’t as well.

  6. How about NO to this man having overnight custody of his progeny. The magistrate’s comments are disturbing. This decision will definitely be appealed. Take child pornography rings – it’s usually the father who sells the kids in, and they aren’t too fussy about raping their own kids too while they’re at it. I couldn’t be too scrupulous about keeping this father away from the girls at night, supervised or not. I’m sorry for the father, but the risk and magnitude of harm is too great. Listen to the older daughter.
    As for this man being genetically related to the children… is that really always a tie that should bind, and for the better?

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