Child rapist wants kids to visit him in prison
A VIOLENT child rapist serving 16 years in jail and a domestic violence perpetrator locked up in immigration detention want the Family Court to order their children to visit them behind bars.
While the cases are not related, they are far from isolated -with experts saying prisoners Australia-wide are seeking court orders to maintain contact with children.
Speaking exclusively to NewsRegional, two desperate mothers have revealed they are struggling with the financial, legal and emotional burdens of having to navigate the family law system with men who are locked up.
In the first case, a woman called Sonia was horrified to learn her former husband - who raped a nine-year-old relative - wants a judge to order their 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter to visit him in Darwin Correctional Centre.
"He wants forced visits - for me to take the kids to see him in jail in Darwin," the mother, who lives in another part of Australia, said.
In September, Northern Territory Supreme Court Justice Peter Barr ordered the one-time Telstra manager to serve 16 years, with parole after 11, for "cruel and degrading" attacks on his niece.
A jury found the man raped the girl at least three times while he and his family were visiting them in Darwin over Christmas in 2009.
During the assaults, the man threatened the girl with a knife, saying he would kill her parents if she revealed the abuse.
After the rapes he told the victim "that's all you're good for" and "you are my Christmas present and I am yours".
Sonia is the girl's maternal aunt and her children are the victim's cousins.
The mother said her kids were terrified of their father and were adamant they did not want to see him.
Sonia said she separated from the husband in 2015 after "21 years of sexual, physical, emotional and financial abuse".
ABUSE CONTINUES VIA COURT
She said the man "consistently breached domestic violence orders" and was using the Family Court to "continue the abuse".
"He once told me he would make my life a living hell, he would f--- me over financially in every way possible and he would take the kids," she said.
"My son was asked by the independent children's lawyer if he wanted any contact with his father in prison and he said 'No', he wanted nothing to do with him at all.
"My daughter said she wanted nothing from him and no contact.
"Her response to 'What if he was rehabilitated or changed?' was 'It doesn't change what he has already done'."
Sonia said the case had been before the Family Court for more than three years without an outcome.
When he was jailed, the 46-year-old mother thought that would be the end of the legal battle that has cost her more than $150,000.
However, his lawyer turned up to a pre-scheduled hearing in December - three months after the man was convicted and jailed.
Sonia said she was shocked when the Family Court judge set down a pre-trial hearing for April, 2019.
She said she expected her former husband to continue his push for the court to grant access to the children and to give him the lion's share of their superannuation pools.
"The Family Court is enabling a convicted child rapist to use the system to maintain his power and control over me," Sonia said.
MAN THREATENED TO KILL CHILD
Meanwhile, *Tracy is mother to a four-year-old daughter in Melbourne.
She suffered extreme abuse at the hands of her former husband including multiple attempts to kill her.
About three years ago, the man was taken into custody after assaulting Tracy and threatening to kill their child.
He was then transferred to immigration detention when authorities realised he entered Australia using false documents.
The man has multiple names and uses at least three dates of birth.
This week, Tracy was served with Family Court documents indicating her former husband wanted access to their child.
Both Tracy and the child are covered by intervention orders designed to keep them safe from him.
The man is in detention in Brisbane and wants to be moved to Victoria to be closer to the child.
"He tried to kill me, he threatened to kill the baby when she was four months old," Tracy said.
"He is a nutcase and very dangerous.
"I cannot believe he is doing this.
"He is likely to be deported, he has exhausted all appeals but the Immigration Department is allowing him to take me to Family Court.
"I am furious.
"No words can express my anger."
Lawyer Angela Lynch said prisoners seeking access to their children was not unusual.
"The prisoners all talk about these things and going to court is a way for them to have something to do - to alleviate the boredom," the Women's Legal Service Queensland solicitor said.
"You cannot stop a person bringing proceedings while the person is in jail."
NOTHING STOPPING PRISONERS SEEKING COURT ORDERS
Family law and domestic violence specialist Sarah Bright said it was not unusual for prisoners to seek court orders allowing contact with their children.
Ms Bright said the court would make orders taking into account the relationship between the father and the children, the impact on their children's psychological health of prison visits or telephone contact and other factors.
"The parties can submit an application to end the proceedings and the court would consider this and issue final orders that are robust and would stand up on appeal," said Ms Bright, an Australian Women Against Violence Alliance member and Women's Law Centre of WA principal solicitor.
National Council of Single Mothers and their Children chief executive officer Terese Edwards said the cases could set a "deeply concerning precedent" for other families.
"It immediately raises a raft of issues," Ms Edwards said.
"It could be foreseeable that the child will be afraid of the prison environment and also the incarcerated parent - it could intimidate and terrify the child.
"The child will need to also deal with unfamiliar security checks, not understanding the rules of visiting a jail and or having no say in the circumstances."
The Department of Home Affairs said people in detention "have the right to access the courts".
"The Department is not generally involved in family law proceedings," a spokesperson said.
* Sonia's and Tracy's names have been changed for legal reasons. - NewsRegional
For 24-hour domestic violence or sexual violence support, phone the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.