Tue | Jun 27, 2017

Laws of Eve | Father by fraud

Published:Monday | June 19, 2017 | 6:00 AM

In reflecting on Father's Day, I wish to commend all men who truly fulfil their roles as fathers, as well as the men who volunteer to be fathers to children with whom they have no biological connection. (They are not the subjects of this article). Today, we consider the sad and heart-wrenching reality that there are men who are tricked into being fathers. For those men, we usually consider the remedies that are available in the civil courts but, today, we explore the fact that there may also be criminal penalties, depending on the circumstances of the case.

On June 12, 2017, Danielle Morris pleaded guilty to charges of forgery and using a false instrument before the Liverpool Crown Court. The allegations were that Morris falsified a DNA test result document and used it to claim that Jamie Somers was the father of her child, Darcy. Somers accepted the test results and, between October 1, 2015 and August 16, 2016, he maintained Darcy, set up a special room in his home for her and placed a bold, 12-inch tattoo of the child's name and date of birth on his arm.

 

CALL FOR DETAILS

 

When Somers called the testing facility for details about the test, he was told that they had not tested him. As a result of Somers' complaint, Morris was charged and sentenced to 12 months in jail.

The fact is that paternity fraud was not actually the crime for which Morris was charged, and based on my research, there is no such criminal offence known to the common law. However, making a false statement in a public document by naming someone as the biological father, when he is not, is a crime. For any mother who is uncertain of the identity of her child's biological father at the time she is registering the child's birth, it would be best if she chose not to state the name of the child's biological father on the birth certificate at all.

At different points in time, the information about Jamaican paternity testing is that one in three or one in 10 Jamaican fathers is saddled with a 'jacket', that is, named as the father of a child who is the biological child of another man. Well, the news in the United Kingdom in January this year was even worse - almost 50 per cent of men in the United Kingdom who took paternity tests turned out not to be the real father.

 

WOMEN'S PROMISCUITY

 

These numbers speak volumes about the level of promiscuity among women and suggest that many women are at risk of being prosecuted for creating or using false birth certificates. However, based on my research, the rate of prosecution is very low; and various reasons are posited for this, including the fact that there is reluctance to leave a child exposed to having no parent to care for him or her.

There are so many victims in the Morris case, and in every case in which paternity fraud is committed; but the deepest sympathies go to the children who, like young Darcy who is now three years old, lose the only father they know and could be without their mothers if they end up in prison.

In the end, the comments from the judge, who reportedly said to Morris, "Nothing can justify what you perpetrated", sums up the view of this writer. The serious emotional scars left by paternity fraud cannot be removed by monetary awards or prison sentences.

- Sherry Ann McGregor is a partner and mediator in the firm of Nunes Scholefield DeLeon & Co. Please send questions and comments to lawsofeve@gmail.com or lifestyle@gleanerjm.com. [1] www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk