Child Predators Could Lose Parental Rights Under New Law

Pedophiles could lose their parental rights under new legal proposals in the UK. The opposition Labour Party has suggested a legislative amendment that would remove rights from those found guilty of the specific offense of rape of a child under 13. The rights will only be restored if the convicted abuser can convince family courts that the restoration is in the child’s best interests.

Harriet Harman, a Labour Member of Parliament, proposed the amendment after hearing about a woman’s attempts to keep her sex offender husband away from her daughter. The mother, known only as Bethan, spent around $38,000 trying to protect her child when a court ruled her former husband had parental rights, even though he was barred from contact with any other child.

Bethan’s husband went to prison for child sexual abuse offenses. Still, because the couple were married when she gave birth to their daughter, he automatically retained authority to decide on the child’s schooling, health, and other significant issues. Bethan said she was “petrified” that he could collect the child from school without her knowledge, and there was little she could do to stop him.

The BBC observed and reported on an exchange between the convicted abuser and family court judges in Cardiff, Wales. The offender acknowledged the seriousness of his crimes but said he wants “to be there” for his daughter. Bethan said listening to her ex-husband was “unbearable,” but Hannah Markham KC, chair of the Family Law Bar Association, described his rights as “absolute” because they cannot be altered without often expensive legal battles.

Last November, a court ruled in Bethan’s favor and barred contact between her ex-husband and daughter until the child turns 18. However, Ms. Harman believes the law must change so parents in Bethan’s position do not have to find thousands of dollars and go through stressful and lengthy legal battles. The UK’s Lord Chancellor, responsible for the administration of courts, has backed Harman’s proposals.