This is a highly controversial and very heart-rending report that highlights just how difficult in can be for a family judge to make the 'right' decision. In this case, the high court judge had 'with real regret' reached the decision that a parent's application to see her five children would be refused: originally the childrens' birth father, but subsequently gender reassigned as a woman, the court found that the children would be shunned by their community if contact with her were to be reinstated. The Guardian piece sets out the history of the case and the evidence given by both parents: it makes sad reading for all. Whilst the judge clearly had great sympathy with the woman, and referenced throughout the judgement the difficult issues with which he had wrangled, he made a decision which in his view was on all available evidence in the best interests of the children. Emphasising the “the lifelong benefits of a unique and irreplaceable relationship” ie face to face contact between parent and child, his order was for the children to receive written communication 5 times a year, but no face to face contact.
Whilst this case is undoubtedly quite a rare one, in the context of this particular set of facts involving the Charedi Jewish community in Manchester, the courts will increasingly see cases involving parental gender reassignment as well as opposing religious and cultural beliefs. Mr Justice Jackson no doubt had this in mind when he confirmed that he would send a copy of the judgment to Nick Gibb, the school standards minister. “If change is required, and that is for others to say, responsibility must fall on the shoulders of the schools, the community and the state, and not on the heads of young children.”
Mr Gibb: we await your response....
A transgender woman has been denied direct contact with her five children on the basis they would be shunned by their ultra-Orthodox Jewish community if she were allowed to meet them. The woman will be allowed only to send letters to her children, after a judge concluded there was a real chance of “the children and their mother being marginalised or excluded by the ultra-Orthodox community” if face-to-face contact were permitted. Mr Justice Peter Jackson reached the conclusion with “real regret, knowing the pain that it must cause”. As a result of the ruling, her contact with each child will be limited to letters four a year, and the children’s birthdays. The judge noted his concerns over the clash between the ultra-Orthodox faith and transgender rights, saying: “Its painful to find these vulnerable groups in conflict.” l attention.”