Blunkett wins first round of child access struggle

Click to follow
The Independent Online

David Blunkett today fought off an attempt by his former lover Kimberly Quinn to delay court proceedings in which he is seeking parental access to their two-year-old son.

High Court judge Mr Justice Ryder rejected the argument that for health reasons Mrs Quinn was unable to get a fair hearing unless the case was adjourned until next April.

Mrs Quinn, 44, claimed at a private hearing yesterday that taking part in the proceedings, which are imminent, would put her own health and that of her unborn second child at risk, as well as affecting the welfare of her son.

But the judge said that, on the evidence, Mrs Quinn was not incapacitated from giving instructons to her lawyers and "was able to take a good part in these proceedings until days, if not hours, before the hearing".

In particular, said the judge, she gave firm instructions in relation to paternity, which she contested.

Any delay in conciliation proceedings aimed at resolving the dispute would be "damaging to the relationship" between Mr Blunkett and the boy, referred to in court only as A, the judge said.

The Home Secretary, who was not in court, said afterwards: "I'm naturally relieved at today's judgment so I can continue my attempts to gain access to my son."

Naming the child, Mr Blunkett added: "I have never wanted anything about my private life and (A's) paternity to be in the public domain and would never have gone to the courts if there were another way of getting informal access to him.

"I still hope this may be possible as I have not seen (A) since August."

Mr Blunkett's official spokesman said outside court that the first hearing in the case took place on November 23.

"The only reason there's a judgment today is that Kimberly Quinn made an application in a private hearing last week.

"The reason it's being heard in public is because the judge decided there were too many myths in the public domain," he said.

He confirmed that Mr Blunkett was in court 47 of the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday for just over two hours.

Asked if private difficulties were stopping the Home Secretary from performing his job, the spokesman said: "Virtually all of us have issues in our private lives which can sometimes be demanding and difficult.

"We're all professional and we can all manage to do our jobs.

"I don't think anyone has noticed over the last four months that they have seen any less of David Blunkett."

The row between Mrs Quinn and the Home Secretary has left Mr Blunkett fighting for his political life.

Friends of Mrs Quinn and her husband Stephen have claimed that Mr Blunkett fast-tracked a visa application for their former Filipino nanny.

Home Office mandarin John Gieve ordered an inquiry into the claims, to be led by former government adviser Sir Alan Budd, earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Mr Blunkett insisted he had done nothing wrong.

A high-profile court battle is likely to further complicate Mr Blunkett's position.

But there were reports he regards his children as a higher priority than his 34-year political career and may even be contemplating an exit strategy from high office.

Mr Quinn pleaded for a ceasefire yesterday after his wife was admitted to a London hospital suffering stress, said to have been brought on by the public row with the Home Secretary.

Speaking outside his London home, Mr Quinn defended his wife and appealed again for her to be left alone.

He said: "She is not the greatest sinner this country has produced.

"It's not really fair to keep on saying that, 'Oh my God, it's terrible', or whatever. We must have a sense of humanity, fairness, justice and reasonableness.

"It's not right to keep attacking her about access and things like that.

"The issue really is that when Kimberly has her next child in February and when she can be rational, together and reasonable, we will deal with this."

Mr Blunkett, 57, and the 44-year-old publisher of the Spectator magazine began their three-year affair just three months after she married Mr Quinn, managing director of Vogue.

Mr Quinn, who is 60, said his wife was very distressed that her nanny, Leoncia Casalme, had told her story to the media.

However, Mr Quinn said he did not feel betrayed by Ms Casalme and had made no attempts to contact her.

"It's nonsense to say, 'She said this or something that', it's just tittle-tattle really and it's hurtful, it's damaging to her (my wife) when her health is quite frail."

The call follows a Daily Mail newspaper report in which Ms Casalme gave her side of the story and said the Home Secretary must have become involved in the process which led to the granting of her visa at a later stage than he had previously admitted.

Meanwhile, fellow Cabinet members were continuing to rally to the support of Mr Blunkett today.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said "even today" he would be getting on with his job.

He told GMTV: "I do not think there is any evidence that he is not doing his job. In fact, he is not being diverted from continuing to do every aspect of his job.

"Even today he will be getting on with the job and I have never seen a situation where David has been prevented from making the difficult and sometimes very tough decisions that a Home Secretary has got to make.

"He is a man of great character and great integrity and he will keep doing his job to the best of his ability, and the best of his ability is something that is to the credit of our country."

Mr Justice Ryder, who dismissed an appeal by Mrs Quinn against the refusal by a district judge to adjourn the proceedings, said the Home Secretary was in court yesterday but Mrs Quinn was too ill to attend and remained in hospital.

Mr Blunkett issued an application for a parental responsibility order and contact order on November 11.

The judge said there had been "inaccurate speculation" about the case and that Mr Blunkett had never sought a residence order or scientific paternity tests.

In his application, Mr Blunkett was described as the father of the child and Mrs Quinn as the mother.

Mrs Quinn did not accept that Mr Blunkett was the father and if she was right, his application for a parental responsibility order would be fatally flawed, said the judge.