Father who objected to female social worker assessing son loses appeal to appoint man instead

A man who is embroiled in a family court dispute with his estranged wife and objected to a female social worker investigating issues relating to their eight-year-old son has lost a legal fight.

The man said an assessment should be carried out by a male social worker.

He challenged a family court judge’s order, which named a woman social worker as the independent expert who should carry out the assessment, and complained that his human right to a fair trial had been infringed.

But three appeal judges have dismissed his challenge after a Court of Appeal hearing in London.

Lady Justice King, Lord Justice Baker and Lord Justice Dingemans ruled that Judge Richard Clarke, who is overseeing the couple’s dispute, which is centred on the care of the boy, at a family court in Watford, Hertfordshire, had been entitled to “reject the father’s human rights arguments”.

Judges heard that both parents had been raised as members of the Hassidic Haredi Orthodox Jewish community.

The man had said he would have “difficulties speaking to a female social worker” and “it would not be compliant with his Haredi tradition”.

He said that he had a human right to a fair trial and Judge Clarke should appoint an expert all “parties” had “confidence” in.

Judge Clarke had said he was satisfied that a woman social worker identified as an independent assessor was the “appropriate expert”.

Christopher Hames KC, who represented the man at the appeal hearing, said Judge Clarke’s “failure to attach adequate weight” to his client’s objection to the appointment of a female independent social worker was a breach of the right to a fair trial.

Mr Hames said Judge Clarke had “disregarded the father’s reasonable and legitimate concern” that the appointment of a female assessor would “compromise his ability to engage in the assessment”.

Lord Justice Baker said, in an appeal court ruling, that the boy’s mother had described “life in the community”.

He said she had described her estranged husband’s “strict religious observances”.

“It is her case that she found her life with the father intolerable,” said Lord Justice Baker.

“Her description of the father’s conduct includes examples of his discomfort in the presence of women, including in some contexts, the mother herself.”

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