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The quotes provided are normally directly from the original article, but typically whole sentences and paragraphs are omitted, often without indicating where the omission is, but without altering the order of presentation. In some cases people's names are removed, and replaced thus "[X]".

Date & reference Extracts (not necessarily contiguous)

2000-01-04
The Times

Child payments 'must be seen as tax on fathering'

BY ALEXANDRA FREAN, SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT

CHILD support payments should be regarded as a statutory tax on fatherhood, and not a voluntary contribution, the government minister in charge of reforming the Child Support Agency has said.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham, Social Security Minister in the Lords, said she was determined that payments by absent parents should become as widely accepted as income tax. Only 34 per cent of non-resident parents (mostly fathers) who have received a full assessment pay in full, with 35 per cent making part-payments. The rest pay nothing.

(This news article is shown in full and analysed elsewhere on this site).

2000-01-10
The Times

Computer hitch delays reform of child payments

BY PHILIP WEBSTER

REFORMS to change the way absent parents are required to pay for child maintenance face being undermined by the latest computer hitch to beset the Government. Ministers have admitted that the Child Support Agency's new computer system - responsible for handling a simplified formula for calculating maintenance payments - will not be fully completed until 2003.

But it is scheduled to be introduced in October 2001, meaning that hundreds of thousands of existing CSA cases will be run on the old computer system using the old formula. In a report last year the Commons Social Security Committee warned that there was a distinct possibility that the new system would not be in place in time, despite assurances that it would be operating for new cases by 2001. However, in a written answer to Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat social security spokesman, Angela Eagle, the Social Security Minister, admitted that the CSA information technology system would not be completed until 2003. The CSA problem is the latest of a series of high-profile IT hitches for the Government.

Mr Webb said yesterday: "There is a real risk that families and children will face the consequences of computer chaos. "I am sure the Government will say it can run both systems side by side but the shambolic history of the CSA suggests there are more problems ahead."

2000-01-13
This Is Lancashire

New bid to cut CSA red tape snarl-ups

BURY MP David Chaytor is urging ministers to ensure that a single named official is responsible for every case handled by the controversial Child Support Agency.

In a Commons debate on the Bill revising the formula that the agency uses for calculating absent parents' liabilities, he tackled Social Security Alistair Darling on the issue. He asked him: "Under the new system will you be able to ensure that people who approach the CSA are given a named official who will progress their case? "We all know of the terrible bureaucracy that dogged the Agency under the old regime, but one of the most frequent complains from the constituents is that they never know to whom they are talking. "Can a named official be guaranteed under the new system? "I hope that you can ensure that the CSA will give the highest priority to projecting a human face to those who contact them."

Mr Darling replied: "You make a good point and we wish to encourage such an approach now, as well as in the future. "It is much better for everyone concerned if people can speak to someone who knows their case and they do not have to go over old ground time and again. "When we have the new computer system, it will be much easier because staff will be able to call up on screen everything they need to know about an individual."

Bolton MP David Crausby said he was delighted to the changes at the CSA and the simpler formula. He said that while everyone supported the CSA and the principal that absent parents should pay for the maintenance of their children, he added: "The present system of enforcement is incredibly unfair." He added: "We must all have had constituents who have suffered injustice at the result of the present provisions. I am delighted that we will introduce lower rates for non-resident parents on very low incomes. "A simpler method for the calculation of child support has been desperately needed. At long last legislation proposes a formula that will at least be clearly understood."

2000-01-20
The Times

News in Brief: CSA is 'overcharging'

Absent parents pursued by the Child Support Agency are four times as likely to be overcharged as undercharged and more than one in five of all CSA demands are incorrect, MPs on the Public Accounts Select Committee heard. The figures were uncovered in a recently published National Audit Office report. Faith Boardman, the CSA chief executive, said she was "genuinely puzzled" by the disparity.

2000-01-23
Sunday Times

One in seven fathers 'not the real parent'

Lois Rogers, Medical Correspondent

AT LEAST one in 10 children was not sired by the man who believes he is their father, according to scientists in paternity testing laboratories. Some laboratories have reported the level of "unexpected" paternity to be as high as one in seven when they perform DNA genetic tests on blood samples from supposed parent and offspring. There are now seven government-approved laboratories doing paternity testing. Cellmark Diagnostics in Abingdon is the largest and receives more than 10,000 requests a year. One in five of them is "private" and has not been ordered as a result of a court or Child Support Agency dispute.

David Hartshorne, spokesman for Cellmark, said that in about one case in seven, the presumed father turns out to be the wrong man. "It is surprising how often the mother is wrong about the person she thinks is the father," he said. Marriage breakdown and more births outside marriage have increased disputes about paternity and the desire for testing, he added. In addition to DNA evidence, other studies of mass blood samples suggest that increasing numbers of women are unsure if their husbands are the fathers of their children.

This phenomenon of misattributed fatherhood has been investigated in a newly published study by social scientists at the London School of Economics (LSE). Oliver Curry, the principal researcher, said long working hours and commuting by fathers could contribute to uncertainty about whether children have been fathered by the man who is bringing them up. The team from the LSE is calling for investigations to be set up by the government's new National Family and Parenting Institute. They believe that mistrust over paternity may be an overlooked factor in family breakdown.

2000-01-26
Lincolnshire Echo Online

Child-cheat's DNA con

An absent dad sent his best friend for a DNA test in his place to avoid paying maintenance for his child. George Brunskill, 26, persuaded Colin Morris, 30, to have the test as part of a scam to convince the authorities that he was not the father of his baby. But Newcastle Crown Court heard how their plan backfired when Morris was photographed during the blood test - and the child's mother realised she had been duped.

Stanley Sanderson, prosecuting, said: 'When his child's mother went to the Child Support Agency to force him to admit paternity, Morris was photographed as routine. 'The DNA test obviously revealed tests were negative, but the mother was insistent and on further investigation by the CSA she was shown the picture of the man who had given the blood test.' The pair were arrested and both admitted perverting the course of justice.

The court heard how Brunskill, from New Brancepeth, Co Durham, fathered the child after a fling with the young woman. But he denied he was the father and he refused to pay anything towards his child's maintenance. The mother contacted the CSA, which asked him to go for a blood test to decide paternity.... Shaun Routledge, defending, said: 'Brunskill has since admitted paternity and has now embarked on payments for his child.'

2000-01-27
Electronic Telegraph

Mothers can refuse DNA tests on children

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor

MEN who want to use DNA tests to prove paternity could be thwarted after a High Court judge ruled that mothers could legally refuse blood samples to be taken from their children. Mr Justice Wall, a Family Division judge, said a man could obtain a court order for the test in a civil case where, for example, he might wish to be established in law as his child's father in order to pursue an application for a parental responsibility or contact order. However, a loophole in the Family Law Reform Act meant the courts could not compel mothers to consent to the sample.

His ruling concerned two cases where the mothers - who have care and control of the children - refused to allow blood to be taken. The judge said: "The question which arises is simply: what, if any, order or orders may the court make to enforce the direction that a sample of blood be taken from a child?" In a 35-page judgment, he said that although the courts had the power to require blood tests, the Act also stated that a blood sample could be taken from a child under the age of 16 only "if the person who has the care and control of it consents".

Although he found it "unattractive", the judge said the provisions for ordering blood tests were "entirely overridden" by the entitlement to refuse consent. The judge said new legislation was needed to change the position. He added: "If Parliament does not implement reform, the law will continue not to serve the best interests of children." The loophole could be closed by new powers to allow testing on hair or saliva samples but they have never been brought into force. The Lord Chancellor's Department said the Government planned to trigger the provisions "when parliamentary time allows".

2000-02-01
Electronic Telegraph

News in brief: New child support system delayed again

THE introduction of the Government's new child support system has been delayed yet again by problems with computer technology. Alistair Darling, the Social Security Secretary, announced yesterday that the new formula for calculating payments through the Child Support Agency would not be running until April 2001.

Ministers had promised to implement the changes, included in legislation now going through Parliament, by the end of this year. However, the consortium which has won the contract to install the new computer system - Affinity, led by the information technology company EDS - said that the work was much more complicated than anticipated. This is because the computer will have to be able to "talk to" other machines at the Benefits Agency and Inland Revenue to cross-check data.

2000-02-02
The Guardian

Six-month delay for CSA reform

David Brindle

Reform of the child support agency was deferred yesterday for a further six months until 2002 amid growing signs of anxiety about a computer intended to make the changes. Alistair Darling, the social security secretary, said the change was being put back to avoid "unacceptable risks" in the changeover.

The deferral means a simplified child support formula will be applied to new cases in April 2002. Last summer the operative date had been late 2001. Existing cases will not be transferred from the present, deeply unpopular formula until later - some possibly not before 2004 - by which time many fathers will no longer have maintenance liability. The postponement came days after the Commons social security committee voiced concern about spending plans for the computer system.

In the first use of a new ministerial power, Mr Darling had notified the committee of his intention to spend money developing the computer system before parliament approved the bill setting out the agency changes. The committee was first told he wished to spend £60m before royal assent was granted, enabling the Affinity consortium - led by a US computer company, EDS - to start development. Subsequently however, this figure was revised to £6m. Although the committee did not oppose the spending, it said it was worried that the proposal "bore little or no relation to the likely final version" and called for a review of how the ministerial power should be used in future.

Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat social security spokesman, said the apparent confusion over the computer did not bode well. It was sensible to have a further delay to avoid repeating mistakes made when the agency was established - "it would be a fiasco if they did try to do that". One of the agency's worst problems has been the running of its complex maintenance formula with an off-the-shelf computer from the US.

2000-02-02
BBC

Ministers admit child support failings

Pat Reilly's persistence and letter writing campaign is paying off

Ministers have admitted mistakes were made in the handling of a case of a father who paid £5,500 more than he should have to the Child Support Agency. Patrick Reilly, from Barrhead, in East Renfrewshire, lost his house and his job when his wages were arrested and he fell into debt. He has received £150 in compensation but ministers said the amount was now being reconsidered.

Mr Reilly had been paying £40 a week in maintenance for a child from a previous marriage when the CSA contacted him. But a series of bungles meant he ended up having his wages arrested and was forced to pay more than £7,000 to the agency. He received a rebate of £1,600. Mr Reilly has accused the agency of incompetence and added: "The CSA lost a lot of my paperwork and when it did surface it backed up my case. "But they continued to send me numerous amounts of mail which made no sense at all." The case has been active for more than six years and the Eastwood Labour MP Jim Murphy has been helping Mr Reilly in his two-year battle with the agency and with ministers.

2000-02-10
Lincolnshire Echo Online

Angry mum Nets revenge on ex-lover

An angry mother who claims her ex-lover is living the life of Riley and not paying maintenance for their child has set up a website to expose him. Cindy Chapman's 40-page www.selfishman.com is dedicated to businessman Paul Hafiz, who is the father of her five-year-old daughter Abbey.

She claims he's paid her just £500 since they split up last year, by exploiting a Child Support Agency loophole, which allows men to have an interim assessment if they refuse to fill in a CSA form.

2000-03-08
The Independent

CSA wants generous parents to pay double

By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent

Mr Justice Sullivan, who was asked to decide whether pocket money could count towards maintenance payments, said the question had far reaching implications. The Child Support Agency is seeking a ruling that money put in a youngster's hand is just pocket money - and no more than that. Agency lawyers argued that allowing parents to by-pass the official system by working out their own deductions for pocket money would create "administrative chaos". But Mr Justice Sullivan said absent parents could be forced to pay double if the court ruled in the agency's favour. "I am particularly concerned about the penal consequences where someone has paid over a substantial amount - but nevertheless gets whacked for it again."

The issue arose when the agency claimed that a Derbyshire father was liable for £711 child maintenance arrears run up between July 1997 and November 1998. Ilkeston family proceedings court disagreed in March last year and said the £5 weekly pocket money the father gave to his daughter, now aged 16, could be counted as maintenance payments, leaving him owing just £278. But at the High Court, Ms Emma Dixon, appearing for the agency, warned there was great potential for absent parents to abuse the system. But the judge expressed concern that the absent father was not represented in court and adjourned the hearing until the magistrates could be represented, or for an amicus (friend of the court) appointed to assist with legal argument.

2000-03-08
Electronic Telegraph

Judge to rule on pocket money and maintenance

By Terence Shaw, Legal Correrspondent

A HIGH Court judge was asked yesterday to rule whether pocket money should reduce the amount of maintenance payable under the Child Support Act.
In a test case appeal, the Child Support Agency is claiming that magistrates in Derbyshire were wrong to decide £5-a-week pocket money paid by a father to his daughter could count towards his maintenance arrears. Emma Dixon, counsel for the agency, said if the decision were allowed to stand it would create "administrative chaos".

But Mr Justice Sullivan, adjourning the case for fuller legal argument, said he was concerned that many absent parents could be "whacked" if after paying substantial amounts in pocket money they had to pay it again. The case arose when the agency claimed that a farmer was liable for £711 arrears run up between July 1997 and Nov 1998. But in March last year, Ilkeston family court ruled that pocket money he had given his daughter, now aged 16, should reduce the arrears by £433.

Opening the agency's challenge in London, Ms Dixon said: "If the magistrates are right it could seriously undermine the effectiveness of the collection and enforcement of child support." There was also great potential for absent parents to put pressure on the other parent to say money had been paid. The judge, expressing concern that the father was not represented, adjourned the case for the magistrates to be represented or for a "friend of the court" to be appointed to assist with legal argument.

2000-04-11
The Independent

When child support re-runs 'Kramer v Kramer'

Child support laws that link contact with maintenance would make children bargaining chips and pit parent against parent, say lawyers

By Grania Langdon-Down

Proposed changes to the much maligned Child Support Agency will turn children into commodities and set parent against parent in Kramer v Kramer-style custody and access battles, according to family lawyers.... The Law Society and the 4,000 member Solicitors Family Law Association (SFLA) are lobbying peers after finding the Government deaf to their pleas to amend the reforms.

Mark Harper, partner in the family law department of City solicitors Withers, said the Government had chosen bureaucratic convenience over children's needs. "The vast majority of people will end up with lower child maintenance than at present," he said. "For high earners, it will mean huge payments which take no account of spousal maintenance or division of capital. That is the price the Government says parents will have to pay to simplify the formula for assessing payments and to make the CSA work."

One of the SFLA's major concerns is that the proposed reforms directly link contact with maintenance, with weekly payments reduced by one-seventh for each night's stay. James Pirrie, partner in the Family Law Consortium in London and SLFA spokesman on child support issues, said: "As currently proposed, we must anticipate US-style Kramer v Kramer custody and access battles (where characters played by Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep fought for their son through the courts). Until now, it has been the interests of the child that have decided the outcome. "We fear resident parents might block overnight stays because they cannot afford to see a reduction in payments, while non-resident parents may insist on the stays to secure a reduction in a level of child support perceived as unfair – regardless of the needs of the child."

At present, the CSA's remit is largely focused on families receiving state benefits - financially independent families generally let the court decide questions of child maintenance as part of the settlement package. However, the reforms allow either parent to tear up a court agreement after a year to seek an assessment by the CSA. According to family lawyers, this effectively means all settlements will have to follow the new formula which sets child maintenance payments at a fixed rate of 15 per cent of the non-resident parent's net income for the first child, 20 per cent for two children and 25 per cent for three or more children, irrespective of the non-resident parent's ability to pay, the resident parent's income or the actual needs of the child. There is no cap on the amount a non-resident parent could have to pay and there is no right of appeal against a maintenance assessment by the CSA. Sanctions for non-payment include confiscating the defaulting parent's driving licence.

James Pirrie highlighted the SFLA's other concerns - that the CSA's jurisdiction was being imposed on the courts and that the levy on the paying parent's income was open-ended. "A spot-check across existing files shows that the figures may be appropriate for many families," he said. "But there are also cases where the assessment would be twice as high as could be afforded by the paying parent and in others it would be half as much as the receiving parent properly needed. "The solution lies in differentiating between welfare benefits families and financially independent families, giving the court exclusive jurisdiction over the latter. There also needs to be a cap on the amount a non-resident parent has to pay and the link between contact and payment must be dropped," he said.

Sue Bland, partner in the family law department of solicitors Gordon Dadds, agreed the reforms could cause old-style custody battles. "It certainly puts a price tag on having the child living with you, with the child becoming a very valuable commodity," she said. "It is unhealthy, unattractive and undesirable."

2000-05-19
This Is Lancashire

The CSA let me down

WHO really knows what the CSA stands for, or what it actually does? How long does it take it to make an absent parent pay for his or her responsibilities? Your guess is as good as mine.

I recently had my case closed, for no apparent reason, after six years of fighting and chasing, and not one penny being seen. So as far as I am concerned the CSA might as well be the SAP (Support Absent Parents).

I want to see justice done. I want my children to have the monies owed to them and which might go some way to replacing all the Christmas and birthday presents and cards they never received. The CSA seems not to chase absent parents when it feels it is too time consuming. It prefers to pursue parents who are voluntarily prepared to pay for their offspring.

How can a debt, in excess of £25,000, which is owed to my children (and in part to the Government) be ignored? And the amount escalates as each day goes by. The absent parent who refuses to pay is laughing at all of us, especially the supportive parent, their own children, and the system. The CSA needs to re-evaluate its priorities and to do what is right for today's children and do it today, not tomorrow.

2000-05-24
The Times

CSA chief moves on

THE head of the Child Support Agency, Faith Boardman,is leaving her job at one of the country's most maligned institutions to become chief executive of another, the London Borough of Lambeth. Ms Boardman, 49, will leave in the summer. Her three years in the £80,000-a-year job at the CSA have been relatively free of controversy, but a recent report found that nearly a quarter of maintenance assessments made last year were wrong.

2000-05-26
This Is Lancashire

The CSA's demands are crippling us

I READ the letter from "Angry Mother" (May 19) regarding the CSA. We too feel very angry with the way the CSA is organised. However, we are at the opposite end of the scale. It is my partner who is the absent parent.

He is only too happy to contribute financially and socially towards his child's upbringing. However, the amount he is expected to pay through the CSA is crippling us. He works every hour God sends, holding down two jobs in order to make the CSA payments and to also enable us to continue living in our house and have the basic necessities. According to the CSA criteria we are apparently not entitled to such things as water, gas, electricity, food, clothes, or housing insurance, because only our mortgage and council tax are taken into consideration when assessing his payments. With his basic wage we would be left with little more than £20. We would be better off claiming "dole"!

I am a full-time student and work on Saturdays, which buys our food. The CSA even wanted my wage slips in order to increase my partner's payments. I can fully understand the feelings of "Angry Mother", as I truly believe the absent parent should contribute financially towards their child. But frankly, the amount my partner pays does not accurately reflect the cost of supporting one child.

2000-05-26
This Is Lancashire

CSA persecutes those who pay

I AGREE totally with "Angry Mother" (Your Letters, May 19) writing about the CSA.

My partner is the "absent parent", even though his son stays with us for three days a week. He took, and still takes, his responsibility as a father very seriously and has always paid for his son. When his ex-wife remarried he was introduced to the CSA who assessed him 12 months later at what we thought was a reasonable amount. But when his ex-wife was on maternity leave, for the second time, the CSA wrote saying that due to a change of circumstances, hers not ours, they had reassessed the maintenance and he would now have to pay an extra £13 a week. In other words, we had to pay for her to have a baby!

I, on the other hand, have been waiting for more than two years for them to assess the father of my two children, even though I ring the CSA every week. They give him longer and longer to send details that I know, and they know, he will never send. The CSA makes people who pay, pay more and those who don't pay get away with it.

2000-05-30
The Times

Father cannot get tax relief on maintenance

Norris (Inspector of Taxes) v Edgson Before Mr Justice Park

Tax relief under section 347B of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988, inserted by section 36 of the Finance Act 1988, was not available in respect of maintenance paid by a father through the Child Support Agency to his former wife for their child's benefit where the former wife had remarried and that remarriage had been ended by a divorce.

Mr Justice Park so held in the Chancery Division when allowing an appeal by the Crown from a determination in January 1999 that had upheld a claim by the father, Keith James Edgson, for the relief for payments assessed by the Child Support Agency for maintenance of his daughter from 1996.

2000-05-30
BBC

CSA chief to head Lambeth

The head of the Child Support Agency has been appointed chief executive of the London Borough of Lambeth on a £150,000-a-year salary. The post, described in the advertisement as at one time "the worst job in local government", was previously held by Heather Rabbatts, who announced last December she was leaving to pursue a career in the private sector.

Faith Boardman, 50, took over the CSA in 1997, becoming the organisation's third chief in less than four years. The agency came under heavy criticism during her term of office when it emerged that it is four times more likely to overcharge rather than undercharge absent parents.

2000-06-11
The Times

Quick, discreet DNA tests to establish paternity have become a boom industry. A swab inside the cheek can resolve doubts that have lingered for years. All too often, however, the results bring heartbreaking news.

Lois Rogers reports

Who's your Daddy?

The news that his little blond son Rauli had cystic fibrosis came as a devastating blow to Morgan Wise, a Texan railway engineer. He was eager to help when doctors asked him to undergo a genetic test to determine the origins of the boy's illness. Wise's results, however, came back negative. Both parents must have the gene for a child to contract the disease, and tests showed Wise was not a carrier of cystic fibrosis. To his astonishment, Wise was told this meant it was highly unlikely he was Rauli's biological father. Already separated from the mother of his four children, Wise, tempted by the paternity testing clinic offer of a cut-price DNA test deal, underwent genetic analysis to establish whether he was the father of Rawli and his other three children. It was a decision that would change his life. The results revealed that only his daughter, the eldest child conceived during his 13-year marriage, was fathered by him. The three boys were not his sons.

Wise, who says he still regards himself as the boys' father, is now locked in a destructive legal battle with his former wife. He is arguing he will help support the children, but not through her. Three weeks ago, Texan courts ruled he should have no access to the children until the maintenance dispute is settled. The boys he believed to be his sons are among thousands of innocent victims of the growth in the DNA testing industry. In both Britain and America, suspicious men can now take advantage of laboratories offering quick and easy proof of paternity.

Genetic relationships can be established using a home testing kit available over the internet. All it requires is a swab sample of cells from the inside of the cheek of both father and child, which can then be posted off to a laboratory. The results are delivered within five days, no questions asked. More than 250,000 tests a year are now conducted in America, and about 15,000 in Britain. Some of the testing is done to settle legal disputes about child maintenance between unmarried couples, or to answer questions on rights to inheritance.

Many of the customers, however, are married men who are suspicious. All too often, the results bring shocking and unwelcome news: roughly 30% of men taking the tests discover that they are not the fathers of the children they regarded as their own. In the wider community, social scientists say up to 1 in 20 children are not the offspring of the man who believes himself to be their father.

IN BRITAIN, on-air DNA test results may not yet be the stuff of Kilroy, but scientists have been swift to capitalise on the paternity-testing business. There are seven government-approved laboratories offering the service. About 70% of the business currently comes through the courts from the Child Support Agency (CSA) trying to track errant fathers to pay maintenance for their children.

"It is very hard to say that a young man must pay maintenance for 18 years when he knows he is not the father of a child, but at the same time it makes people very uneasy to think that an estranged father could turn up, take the child out and secretly get it tested to see if he could get out of responsibility for it."

Denis Holmes, 40, a financial adviser from Manchester, is adamant that the scientific "advances" offered by DNA testing are a force of destruction rather than enlightenment. After 20 years of marriage, Holmes began a relationship with a dancer after he found his wife had been unfaithful. After several months, his mistress said she was pregnant. Holmes was astonished. He had had a vasectomy some years earlier. DNA tests, however, showed there was a 99.99% chance that the child, now 22 months old, was his. Holmes has now embarked on costly litigation to prove the test is wrong. Since the DNA laboratory has said one in 67,000 people carry the same gene pattern, that means 700 other Britons, or 350 other men, could also have fathered the baby. Holmes has passed repeated tests to prove his vasectomy has not failed. Eight sperm tests have proved negative. The dispute is to be the subject of a high court hearing next month, with the CSA demanding that Holmes pay child maintenance. In the meantime, the CSA has demanded £10,000 from him for legal costs, and Holmes has spent £4,000 on medical investigations to prove his infertility.

At present, fathers can suffer almost as much cruelty at the hands of the law as from the women who seek to trick them. They cannot demand DNA testing without a woman's consent. If a test proves positive, they have obligations to pay maintenance, but no rights whatsoever to see the child or have any input into its upbringing.

2000-06-13
Daily Express

The moment a father finds his child is not his

By Roger Graef

In these days of frequent divorce, casual sex and fragmented communities, men hang on to their identity through such ancient customs as passing their name down to their sons - along with whatever else they may have accumulated along the way. Daughters, of course, also inherit from their parents and they need fathers just as much as the fathers need them to feel fulfilled. But as family happiness is increasingly fragile, so too is the certainty of our identity. As DNA testing becomes more refined, it now can give accurate answers to the equally ancient custom of looking doubtfully at the odd child out and wondering who their father really is.

Two-thirds of those who take the tests get the answer they hope for - which mostly means they are indeed the father of the child they believe is theirs. But, according to a documentary to be shown on Channel 4 tonight, an astonishing one in three of those taking the test discover to their profound dismay that the child they have loved and raised as blood kin is not after all. This is not just a shock to the father and child - and all their relatives - but also a profound insight into the sexual behaviour of women, who are normally regarded as far more stable and loyal partners.

Dr John Burn, a geneticist at Newcastle University, believes that more than five per cent of the British population have a different biological father than the one they believe to be theirs. That's nearly three million people living unwittingly with an explosive secret. The tragedies spill out daily as divorce rises. Many of the tests are not from happy families at all but from couples who have split and are contesting paternity, either in relation to inheritance or who should pay child support.

In Britain, where the consent of both parents is required, about 15,000 such tests are carried out annually and the number is growing. Seventy per cent of the business now going through the seven Government-approved DNA clinics in Britain come from courts ordering paternity tests at the request of the Child Support Agency.

The rights of the father are ignored in many cases. Texas train driver Morgan Wise had three boys and a girl. When his smallest son, Rauli, developed cystic fibrosis - an inherited disease - Morgan's doctor arranged for Rauli, his dad and his brothers to be tested to see where the disease had come from. What began as a loving inquiry ended as a nightmare. As the genetic trail unravelled, it emerged that none of the three boys Morgan treated as his sons was biologically fathered by him; only the daughter was. His wife had had a long-term affair with his best friend. "When the results came, it was unbelievable," said Morgan. "I thought there must be some mistake. It was like a sudden death. How can a mother do this to her husband, her marriage, her children and live a lie?" Yet the courts have awarded his wife custody while Morgan must pay child maintenance without access to the children. The man she says is the real father is not obliged to be tested. This does not seem like justice for any of them.

2000-06-26
The Independent

Police refuse to take DNA tests for database

By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent

Police officers are refusing to give DNA for a new national database partly because of fears that they may be tested for drugs or be asked to pay contributions to the Child Support Agency, officials from the Home Office believe. Less than one-third of the officers in England and Wales who have been asked to give their "genetic fingerprints" for a database have so far agreed to take part. In the country's largest force, the Metropolitan Police, only about 300 out of 15,000 officers asked to volunteer are believed to have come forward so far.

The Home Office, backed by police chiefs, wants to collect DNA profiles from all the officers who attend crime scenes or may come into contact with evidence. In this way they can quickly eliminate them from investigations. The officers have been assured that their samples will not be used to check for drugs or by the Child Support Agency.

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