SZ v DG: Father guilty of 'bestial conduct' refused leave to apply for contact order

Photo of Prague by Dmitry Goykolov on Unsplash

Sometimes the outcome of a case seems beyond doubt from the very first paragraphs of the judgment. So it was with SZ v DG & Ors, which concerned a father's application for leave to apply for a contact order in relation to his 7 year old son, there being a s.91(14) order in place. However, things were not quite as clear-cut as it first seemed they might be.

The case is notable for the conduct of the father, described by Mr Justice Mostyn in an earlier judgment in 2104 (which can be found here) as "truly bestial". That conduct was summarised in an even earlier fact-finding judgment thus:

"I recorded his conviction in the year 2000 in the Czech Republic of offences of the utmost seriousness involving the gross abuse and exploitation of women and girls. I found how, after his arrival in the UK, he meted out appalling domestic violence to his wife, Daniella D. I found how he engaged in serious criminal activity, largely centred around illegal drugs. I described how I was satisfied that he had seduced his 16 year old stepdaughter by plying her with drugs; how he had had unprotected sex with her; and how she became pregnant by September 2011 when she was only 17 years of age. I recorded how this sexual congress took place in the family home to the knowledge of the other minor children there, B and K. I recorded how he was even having sexual intercourse in the same time-frame with his wife as he was with his stepdaughter."

And that was only part of the story, but I need not go on.

At the conclusion of the earlier proceedings Mostyn J ordered that there should be a special guardianship order in favour of the child's foster parents. There was to be no direct face-to-face contact between the father and the child, although the order was silent as to whether there should be any indirect contact between the father and the child.

The s.91(14) order was made as Mostyn J felt that it was "plainly an order that should be made so that the stability of the placement with the special guardians can be guaranteed, or at least, if not guaranteed, assured so far as is possible."

In January this year the father applied for leave to apply for a contact order. Specifically, he sought indirect contact, enabling him to write to his son.

Having regard to the father's past conduct it may be surprising that Mostyn J found the father's application to be "quite finely poised". However, the father's circumstances had changed for the better, in particular he was now living in a stable relationship, and the court of the Czech Republic had entrusted his three younger children to the care of him and his new wife.

Nevertheless, Mostyn J agreed with the submissions made on behalf of the local authority, including that:

  1. The father had been found to have been guilty of the most reprehensible conduct. There was scant recognition in his evidence before the court that he accepted the court's findings.
  2. The risk of disruption to the child's placement that may be caused were this application to be allowed to proceed was not justifiably to be taken.
  3. The child was at a particularly vulnerable age. The application would be more appropriately made when he is more mature and able to give more valid expression to his wishes and feelings.
  4. In any event the application was premature, given that the key change in circumstances relied on by the father, namely the return to him of his three younger children, had only recently taken effect. As recently as 2017 the father was continuing to engage in reprehensible criminal misconduct.

Accordingly, the application was refused.

You can find the full judgment here.