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In a case which underlined that the wishes and feelings of children will be heeded by the family courts, a seven-year-old girl (G) who witnessed her father savagely killing her mother will spend her childhood in foster care following a judge’s ruling.
The deeply traumatised youngster will always have to live with the memory of seeing her father stab her mother more than 50 times. The tragedy was compounded by the fact that G witnessed the crime and suffered injuries inflicted by her father as she bravely sought to protect her mother. She was found by the emergency services, covered in blood, in the same room as her mother’s body.
After her father was sentenced to life imprisonment for manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility, G had lived for a while with her maternal aunt, whose own grief reaction to her sister’s death eventually proved too much for her to continue looking after the girl.
Social workers had stepped into the breach and G had moved to live with a foster couple who had given her ‘wonderful care’. In making that arrangement permanent, the judge emphasised G’s own ‘strongly voiced wish’ and ‘deep desire’ to stay with her foster parents ‘until I am grown up’.
Describing G as a ‘traumatised and vulnerable little girl’, he said that the therapy she was receiving to cope with her mother’s death was entering a ‘delicate and intense phase’. Her family had been riven by animosity between her grandmother and step-grandmother and it was vital that she should not be exposed to that.
The judge accepted social workers’ proposals that G should see members of her family five times every two months on the basis that the desire of the adults for greater contact had to come second to her welfare and her overriding need for a stable and secure home with her foster parents.
Professionals involved in the case were unanimous in their view that G should have no contact with her father unless that would be compatible with her therapeutic needs. The judge expressed the hope that G’s family would now work to achieve the goal of assisting her to overcome the tragedy she had suffered and to enable her to lead a happy, settled, fulfilling and successful life.