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Young baby to continue to be cared for by father

Young baby to continue to be cared for by father

Wallace & Crosby

What are the alleged risks?

  1. In the Notice of Risk filed 1 December 2016 the father sets out the particulars of alleged risk of abuse as follows:
    1. the mother has physically assaulted the father whilst the child was present and the father is concerned the mother may take her emotions out on the child in his absence;
    2. the mother suffers from mental health issues and the father is concerned the mother is not able to properly supervise and adequately nourish the child; and
    1. the mother is a binge drinker of alcohol and the father is concerned that the mother is not properly able to supervise and adequately nourish the child.
  2. In that Notice of Risk, he also sets out the particulars of alleged family violence or risk of family violence as follows:
    1. Child was present when the mother physically abused the father, which included acts such as:
      1. chasing the father with a butcher’s knife;
      2. assaulting father by punching him in the head, arms, legs and torso on many occasions;
      3. assaulting the father with a batton;
      4. broken the father’s nose by head-butting him;
      5. pulled father’s hair;
      6. throwing objects at the father.
    2. Mother has frequently called the father names whilst the child was present;
    1. Mother has called the child names;
    1. Mother has damaged property which includes:
      1. throwing objects around the room;
      2. punching holes in the walls;
      3. kicking items of furniture;
      4. smashing items including mirrors, windows, remote controls and electrical appliances;
    2. Child was present when the mother attempted suicide;
    3. Mother forced the father to cut ties with female friends during the relationship.
  3. The father also alleges that the mother suffers from anxiety and depression and as a consequence of the mother’s anxiety and depression the mother is not able to adequately care for and nourish the child. Furthermore the father alleges that the mother abuses drugs and alcohol and that she becomes violent when under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
  4. In her Notice of Risk filed on 10 February 2017, the mother alleges that from the onset of and throughout the relationship the mother has been subjected to verbal and physical abuse from the father, including:
    1. The father grabbing the mother by the upper arms and shaking her;
    2. The father pushing the mother and refusing to let her leave;
    1. The father pulling on the mother’s hair and throwing her to the ground;
    1. The father grabbing the mother by the throat, choking her whilst she was holding the child;
    2. The father grabbing the mother by her hair and clothes, dragging her across the floor and lifting her by her hips and throwing her;
    3. The father twisting the mother’s fingers causing extreme pain while she was holding the child;
    4. The father denigrating the mother calling her names and saying words to the effect of:
      “slut”, “ignorant”, “fat”, “lazy”, “putrid maggot”, “fucking whore”, “junkie”, “you are nothing”, “you are a waste of space”, “you need me”, “you’re good for nothing”, “you’re lazy and fat”, “you don’t deserve X or me”, “you should kill yourself” and “no wonder nobody loves you, you’re crazy.”

 

  • Each of the parties’ Affidavits contains material which supports the allegations they each make. However, they each deny the allegations that the other makes. At the interim hearing, there was no testing of any of the evidence and as such, where facts are contested, which they mostly are in this instance, the Court is not able to make any findings.
  • In her Affidavit the mother denies the use of any illicit substance and that as a teenager she had a difficult time, and that she was anxious and depressed but by the time that she was 18 she had settled and was not suffering from the issues.
  • There were a number of documents which were tendered at the hearing, those documents being produced under Subpoena from various organisations.
  • It was submitted on behalf of the father that the Court would have a great deal of concern for the mother’s capacity to care for the child, about her mental health (particularly as her evidence appears to be at odds with some of the material which has been tendered), and that she is not being honest about her mental health and drug related issues.
  • The Exhibits disclosed that:
    1. In May 2009 the mother was admitted as an involuntary patient to the (omitted) Hospital after she was brought in by the police threating self-harm and harm to her mother’s boyfriend. It is recorded that at the time she had been smoking up to 20 cones per day for 3 months but had stopped the week prior. She was discharged into her mother’s care;
    2. In March 2010, the mother was admitted to (omitted) Hospital as ‘mentally disordered’. She had been brought into emergency by her step-father after she had expressed suicidal ideation. The record also indicates that three days prior the mother had been brought into the Emergency Department by the police and in her agitated state she was required to be physically restrained and had resulted in a mid-shaft fracture of her right humerus. She is recorded as having a history of abuse, a long history of mood instability and drug and alcohol misuse. She had apparently threatened to kill her brother on several occasions and was living in a tent in her mother’s backyard;
    1. In 2010 a complaint was made against the father by his former partner that he had been texting her and calling her over the last 12 months, which usually happened when he had been drinking. Although the complainant on that occasion indicated that she had no fears for her safety she still wanted the harassment to stop.
    1. In 2011 an application for an Apprehended Violence Order was made against the father by the police in relation to his former partner, similar to the one that was applied for in August 2010.
    2. In June 2013 the mother was brought in by the police to (omitted) Emergency Department following a domestic altercation with a boyfriend where she had armed herself with a knife and cut the boyfriend’s hand.
    3. On 27 May 2015 the police were called out after the mother had what was called a “mental health episode”. She had been throwing her clothes around the houseboat and damaging property. When the police arrived the mother was very emotional and said “I don’t want to live anymore.” She was conveyed by the police to hospital.
    4. On 30 March 2016 the police were called out to the father’s houseboat, in response to a “knifing” incident. Upon arrival they observed the mother who was visibly upset and screaming while the father was at the rear of the houseboat with the child. The mother became aggressive and agitated and refused to speak with or comply with the directions given by the police. The mother had used a large silver knife to cut her arm, after the parties had got into an argument. She was forcibly removed from the boat by the police and ambulance officers who were called to the scene. She was placed in handcuffs and restrained whilst in the ambulance. She was scheduled to be assessed under the Mental Health Act 2007. The father said that he was sick of the mother’s drinking and that she had already consumed three ‘long necks’ which apparently resulted in the argument between the parties.
    5. The records from (omitted) Hospital from that admission on 30 March 2016 indicate that the mother stated that she normally lived with the maternal grandmother, and the members of that household. She denied being in a relationship with the father and she stated that she had been anxious about the child being left with the father. She said that this was because the father is not used to looking after the child. The mother indicated to the staff at the hospital that there was no argument between her and the father that day, she said that there were a number of things that had built up: those being stress from being away from home, that she had gained weight in the last couple of days, that she had tried to get dressed to go out and thought that she didn’t look good in anything. The mother admitted to drinking but she said that this was out of the ordinary for her. She said that harming herself was impulsive and that she regretted it straight away. She felt very foolish. The ambulance records were noted as indicating that the mother had reported to the ambulance that she had been drinking eight beers and the notes also recorded that she had been aggressive to the police and to the ambulance. The records relating to the mother’s admission at (omitted) Hospital on 30 March 2016 are lengthy which included a notation that:
      There has been previous mental health presentations of deliberate self-harm – Ms Crosby reported to isolated incidents during her teenage years (seven years ago), with no further presentations until today. Review of old notes suggests that Ms Crosby has minimised her past history. There had been multiple similar presentations of DSH in the past in the context of alcohol abuse and argument with ex-partner. There had been previous issues with alcohol use disorder…

 

  1. On the 17 May 2016 the mother sought a welfare check for the child in circumstances where the child was being cared for by the paternal grandmother. The grandmother had been caring for the child as the father worked six days a week leaving home at about 5am and not returning until about 6pm. The police spoke with the father at about 4pm that day when he was at his mother’s picking up the child. The mother had alleged that the child had been snatched by the grandmother on 13 May 2016 and had sought assistance from Legal Aid for a Recovery Order. The father said to the police that the mother had wandered off on Friday night and that he had later found her on a neighbouring boat affected by the drug ‘ice’. He went on saying that the mother had then left and he hadn’t seen her for several days. The record of 17 May 2016 also states that the police had dealt with the mother on 30 March 2015[7], where she had slit her wrists while affected by drugs/alcohol and had been released from hospital shortly after self-harming.
  1. On 22 July 2016 the mother had called the police advising that she had “just had enough” of the father and that she does not want to stay with him anymore. She told the police that while the father was at work she had packed up her belongings and that she was planning on leaving. A little while later the father became “aggressive and argumentative with the police and tried to interfere in an attempt to get the child back” from the mother. He called the paternal grandmother and his brother to assist him and all three of them attended (omitted) Police Station and were recorded as being argumentative with the police.
  2. The police were by the mother called on 24 November 2016 after the father took the child into his care, and refused to return him to the mother. The father, according to the police records, stated that he had been trying to contact the mother for the past two weeks and that this was the first time that he had managed to make contact, and as such he was taking custody of the child for an undisclosed amount of time. That day the police attended at the father’s home, at the request of the mother. They spoke to the paternal grandmother and the father and cited the child who appeared to be “in excellent spirits and was physically very healthy”.
  1. On 15 December 2016 the police attended the waterfront after they had received a call regarding a Facebook post made by the mother to one of her friends. The mother and the father were together and the mother indicated that they had known each other for years and “that they were catching up”. The mother freely admitted to the police that she had consumed ‘ice’ whilst on board. The police spoke to the father who appeared sober. He explained to the police that he was trying to assist the mother to get off ‘ice’ and he confirmed that the mother had used ‘ice’ recently;
  1. The mother missed a number of medical appointments in late 2016 and early 2017 with her general practitioner;
  2. A home visit was conducted by the Department of Family and Community Services on 2 February 2017, at whose request it is not clear. The records of that home visit indicate that the mother’s residence is an appropriate place for the child and otherwise appears to be self-serving statements made by the mother to the caseworker.
  1. The mother in her Affidavit makes a number of allegations of domestic violence against the father with the allegations essentially relating to coercive and controlling behaviour by the father towards the mother, physical violence and that there was a power imbalance between the parties mainly due to their age difference which was fertile ground for the alleged coercive and controlling behaviour. The mother also makes an allegation that the father had used cocaine and ‘ice’, and that he smokes a ‘fair amount of marijuana’.
  2. There were no records from any institution or any police records which were tendered which might have corroborated the mother’s assertions about the father physically abusing her, or that he was a user of illicit substances.
  3. During the hearing a recording of two voice messages left by the father was played. These voice messages were left by the father on 7 February 2017. The Court formed the view when listening to the recordings that the father’s voice sounded slurred and that he appeared to be aggressive in his tone and manner. What was said was certainly not flattering of the mother. The father said things such as:

The only thing you haven’t got is your fucking son ‘cos you’re a low life piece of fucking shit

And

You choose: dead shits or your child. Your choice, it’s really simple. Until then, fucking wake up to yourself, you fucking desperate.”

  1. That recording appears to be corroborative of the allegations which the mother makes about the father’s drinking and calling her nasty names. It was a message that was left by the father when the child was in his care. It was left after the mother had filed her Response and a few days before the first return date of the father’s Application. It does not reflect well on the father.
  2. It is not necessary for the purposes of the interim hearing for the Court to go into the detail of every single one of the allegations that each party makes against the other. The Court is significantly concerned that there at least appears, on the face of the mother’s Affidavit, to be a failure to disclose to the Court all of the matters which have been noted in the tendered material.
  3. The Court is also significantly concerned that the mother may pose an unacceptable risk of harm to the child if the child was to be placed in her full-time care, at least at this interim stage in the proceedings. Notwithstanding that, if sufficient safeguards are put in place, the child will not be at an unacceptable risk of harm if he was to spend limited but regular time with the mother in accordance with these Orders.
  4. It may be that after the mother complies with the orders made herein, that the risk of harm which the Court currently assesses as unacceptable should the child be living with the mother, will be further alleviated and further minimised. These are only interim orders and made at an early stage in the proceedings.
  5. The child, as between the parents, had primarily being cared for by the mother during the parties’ often volatile relationship. The father works and has worked on a full-time basis since the child was born. Since November 2016 when the child came to be in the father’s care, it is the paternal grandmother who has been responsible for most of the day to day care of the child while the father has been at work. However it is the father who looks after the child at all other times at present.

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