Application for access adjourned following threats to estranged wife – 2015vol3#7

A father’s application for access to his children in care, whom he had not seen for nearly a year, was adjourned for further assessment after the court heard of threats the man had made against his wife. The couple had separated amid allegations of domestic violence after their children were taken into care.

The father’s barrister said an issue had arisen relating to his ability to represent the man in the light of the changed circumstances. He had previously represented both him and his wife, who was now taking a different position.

At the outset of the hearing the mother’s barrister said: “A number of threats were made to my client witnessed by a member of the Garda Siochana and my solicitor. [The applicant said] ‘Ireland is a small place [wife’s name]. I don’t want you to get into the box.’

“This is an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice and intimidate a witness.”

The father’s barrister said his client had undergone the psychological assessment sought by the CFA and he now wanted to work with the CFA and the guardian ad litem and do all asked of him.

He said he had acted for him and the mother on various matters for almost a decade. The mother now had different representation. He did not know how he could continue to act for the father and cross-examine the mother, when he used to represent her.

Judge: “Are you making an application to be discharged? It is not sustainable that you acted for the mother for 21 months and now get into a situation of cross-examining her. The father obviously has a serious matter in this application. He’d be best advised to get legal representation.”

The barrister said that before being discharged he wished to hand in various documents from the father, including a psychological report and affidavits relating to family law applications and the involvement of the mother’s legal representative in the case.

The barrister for the GAL welcomed the psychological report and the fact the father said he was willing to work with the GAL and the CFA. However, he said the father needed to understand each child was at a different stage, some were undergoing therapy and others were moving placement. Therefore the GAL was proposing that the application should be adjourned until September.

The father’s barrister said his client saw the logic in this.

The mother’s barrister said he wanted to call his solicitor in relation to the allegation of intimidation. The solicitor said he had written instructions from the mother concerning the best interests of the children. He heard threats being made against her. He was in the consultation room with the mother and the Garda charged with protecting her. Her sister approached and said she wanted to speak to her. Then he heard the words: “Ireland is a small place. I don’t want you to get into the [witness] box.” The mother then spoke to him and said she had been threatened.

The judge then discharged the father’s barrister and the father entered the witness box.

Judge: “What do you say happened?”

Father: “[Mother’s barrister] called the guard over to take a note of what I said and told her [what it was].”

Judge: “If I heard those words I would take it as a threat. Do you agree?”

Father: “Yes.”

Judge: “It shouldn’t have happened.”

Father: “It shouldn’t. I apologise. My access application … “

Judge: “It needs to go back to September.”

Father: “I agree there should be more time.”

The mother’s barrister asked the court to ensure, in the light of the evidence that had been confirmed, that if there was any threat or any contact with the mother there would be consequences.

The judge told the father, who was still in the witness box: “There is to be no contact with your wife, and no contact on your behalf by anyone else. There will be serious consequences if you breach that. A threat to the mother of your children has to be considered as part of the risk assessment.”

Father: “Nothing happened to her.”

Judge: “The nature of a threat is that something will happen in the future. Any attempt to contact the mother, or any attempt on your behalf to contact her, will be contempt of court and could lead to prison. Keep away from her. Do you understand?”

Father: “Yes, judge.”

See also 2014, Volume 2, Case number 1.