Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Can I Know My Daughter When I Am Only Allowed to Send Her Four Letters a Year? FATHER TELLS OF PAIN AT BEING BANNED FROM ANY CONTACT FOR LAST 18 MONTHS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Can I Know My Daughter When I Am Only Allowed to Send Her Four Letters a Year? FATHER TELLS OF PAIN AT BEING BANNED FROM ANY CONTACT FOR LAST 18 MONTHS

Article excerpt

Byline: VALENTINE LOW

JOHN EVANS scarcely knows what his daughter looks like. It has been 18 months since he saw her and now, as her fourth birthday approaches - a birthday he will miss, like all the others - she is almost a stranger.

This is not because he is a bad father, or does not want to see his little girl. John - not his real name - is victim of a mother's hostility, and the legal system's failure to do anything about a woman who refuses to obey a court ruling.

His partner is so bitter towards him that their daughter is even prevented from seeing a photograph of her father.

A ban prohibiting contact with his daughter was initially imposed by Chelmsford County Court where it was ruled it was in the "best interests" of the child not to see her father as any contact left her mother depressed.

Yesterday, in an Appeal Court hearing during which he represented himself, John won the moral argument but lost the legal one, persuading the judge this was "a truly tragic case" but failing to overturn the ruling.

Lord Justice Thorpe, declaring that he had "every sympathy", said he would like to see a change in the law.

All John can do is dream of what it is like to hug his daughter, play with her or read her a bedtime story.

"I don't know what she looks like any more," he said. "I'm gutted. I want to play an active part in her upbringing. I want to make sure she is okay, and now I have been cut off. I don't know what her favourite toy is, what her favourite programme is. I don't know what colour her hair is. I don't even know how she sounds."

John met Maria - not her real name because the court forbids publication of anything which could lead to identification of their daughter - in 1998 after she advertised in the personal column of an Essex paper. "She was slim, petite, attractive - but a bit nutty, a bit irrational. I suppose the alarm bells should have started ringing then."

Within three months they were living together, and that year she found out she was pregnant. But their relationship soon deteriorated. "We were arguing all the time. There were a lot of arguments about money." By the birth, things were more or less on an even keel, and John, a Post Office IT worker, was present. …

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