Convicted paedophiles to lose parental rights under proposed law change

Paedophiles convicted of serious sexual offences could lose parental rights over their children under a proposed law change.

Under current rules, offenders may still have a right to be included when making important decisions about their children’s education, health and travel.

Labour MP Harriet Harman (pictured) tabled an amendment to upcoming legislation which has been backed by the Lord Chancellor – who is responsible for the administration of the courts.

The new law will cover only the most serious sexual offence, rape of a child under 13, but Ms Harman said the rule could be “extended” to cover less serious sexual offences against children in the future.

The “major and significant” law change is necessary to address the “glaring anomaly” of courts protecting other people’s children from child sex offenders but not the offender’s own, she said.

Some mothers have been forced to pay for legal action to prevent paedophile ex-partners from influencing their children’s lives, the Labour MP said.

“It doesn’t protect his own because his rights as a father trump the protection of his own child, which is obviously wrong,” Ms Harman told Radio 4’s Today.

“It’s the rights of the child that should be at the forefront, not the rights of the father.

“It’s just so glaringly obvious that it’s wrong to protect other people’s children but not protect his own.

“It’s the courts and the law that should step forward to protect children, not leave it to the mother, if she can, to go to court.”

Asked why she thought the parental rights of convicted child sex offenders had been protected until now, Ms Harman blamed the “old hangover of the patriarchy which is that the father somehow has proprietorial rights”.

Ms Harman praised a pilot scheme which allows accredited journalists and legal bloggers to report on family courts cases for highlighting the “anomaly”.

“It was only because there was an opening up of the family courts to allow reporting that this glaring anomaly was brought to the forefront of our attention,” she said.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Children’s safety is absolutely paramount and judges can already make orders limiting the parental responsibility of those found guilty of such offences.

“To further enhance these protections the Government will change the law to automatically suspend the parental responsibility of those found guilty of raping a child.”

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