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Two Welsh MPs are pressing the lord chancellor to reform the law so that those convicted of sexually abusing their children are stripped of parental responsibility rights.
The move comes as a mother-of-two has told of her anguish after her husband waged a legal campaign against her in an attempt “retain control over the children that he abused”.
The woman, who lives in Wales and cannot be named, has fought expensive legal battles against her husband over her desire to take their two children on holiday and change their surnames.
Her husband, who pleaded guilty in June to sexually abusing the two children, received a 15-year prison sentence. Earlier he had also pleaded guilty to possession of indecent images of children.
Some months before sentencing, his lawyers had sent letters to his wife in an attempt to prevent her from legally changing their children’s surname.
Then, weeks after beginning his prison sentence, he instructed lawyers to invoke his continuing legal parental responsibility rights to attempt to prevent his wife from taking their children overseas on holiday.
“The children want nothing more to do with him,” the mother told The Times, “and they wanted to change their names. Yet he fought me for six months in a very expensive legal battle.”
The husband relented days before the dispute over the change of name was to be heard by the family court.
Lawyers for the mother also advised that she could be arrested on return from her holiday with the children, but that it was unlikely. She went was not arrested when she came back from her holiday.
She is now leading a campaign to reform the law with backing from two Labour MPs with constituencies in Wales, Tonia Antoniazzi and Carolyn Harris.
On Friday they wrote to David Lidington, the lord chancellor and justice secretary, demanding that he launch a consultation on reforming the law governing parental responsibility rights.
But a family law specialist warned that convincing the lord chancellor to legislate could be difficult. Jo Edwards, the former chairwoman of the family lawyers group Resolution and a partner at the London law firm Forsters, pointed out that current legislation gave the court wide discretion.
“The Children Act 1989 covers disputes in this area, and my view is that these issues are best left to judges rather than legislating for an automatic extinguishing of the rights of parental responsibility,” she said.