Nov 8 2012 by Rob Pattinson, Ormskirk Advertiser
AN ORMSKIRK father given a suspended jail term for not paying child support has won a landmark legal fight after complaining his human rights had been breached.
Kambiz Karoonian, 44, was one of two fathers bringing test cases before the Court of Appeal.
Mr Karoonian had his appeal against a suspended sentence of 42 days for non-payment of £10,959.21 – an amount he still disputes – upheld.
Both fathers involved in the cases said procedures adopted by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission – formerly the Child Support Agency (CSA) – did not comply with their rights to a fair trial.
The Court of Appeal ruled in their favour, with judges saying the case raised important issues and calling on the commission to make changes urgently. In the judgement, Lord Justice Ward said the wording of their court summonses wrongly implied they bore the burden of proving they did not owe the arrears claimed, and stated: “The procedures adopted do not comply with the rights to a fair trial and were flawed.”
Mr Karoonian, who has two sons aged four and six and three daughters from two previous relationships, had claimed the CSA harassed him and his family so much, the stress led to his marriage breaking down.
He said: “The CSA were phoning every day, saying you are not a good father, demanding me to pay all the time. It felt like harassment. On the phone they were not professional – they were like loan sharks demanding their money. The stress caused by the CSA was the main reason why my wife and I separated.”
His lawyer Stephen Lawson said: “This case was always about fairness and justice.
“The ruling means the burden of proof, the serving of summons notices and disclosure of documents will now be improved to a level similar to criminal proceedings – which is only fair if people are threatened with the ultimate sanction of imprisonment.”
A DWP spokesperson said it was “extremely disappointing” parents who “flouted” legal responsibility to financially support children had invoked the Human Rights Act to seek to continue to do so, and said the ruling “does not question the legality of bringing parents who repeatedly refuse to pay for their children to the attention of magistrates, who can then decide whether to send them to prison.”