The intervention of the most senior family judge in England and Wales has seen legal aid granted to a convicted paedophile — previously found guilty of abusing two boys — to fund a custody battle over his eight-year-old son.
The convicted paedophile, known at court as ‘Q’, previously admitted to engaging in sexual activity with his 12-year-old nephew in 2009. He was sentenced to community service, but his wife had already left him and taken their son, born in 2007, with her. She later filed for divorce.
Q confessed to a second child sex offence in 2012, on that occasion involving a 16-year-old boy. He was sentenced to a six month jail term which was reduced to three on appeal.
His estranged wife objected to the two-time convicted paedophile offender having contact with their son. Q challenged that contact decision, but was refused legal aid under rules approved by Parliament in 2012.
Now, in a case which The Telegraph reports cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds, it has emerged that the abuser was awarded legal aid in the form of “exceptional funding” to “avoid a breach of his human right” to a fair trial and respect for family life.
Sir James Munby, the president of the High Court’s family division, ruled that Q should be legally represented “in order to ensure a just and fair hearing” — a move victims’ rights campaigners have described as “appalling”. Explaining his decision, Sir James said:
“The father is a convicted sex offender, having convictions for sexual offences with young male children. Perhaps not entirely surprisingly in these seemingly unpromising circumstances, the father’s legal aid has been terminated.
“Tempting though it is to think that the father’s case is totally lacking in merit … I am unpersuaded that there are not matters in these reports which could properly be challenged, probed, by someone representing the father.”
In fact, the father’s case for contact with his son was dismissed. In light of the wife’s objections and evidence from a probation officer and child protection specialists that any form of contact would pose “clear risks” to the little boy, he was denied access.
The Ministry of Justice is understood to be appealing against the funding decision.