Sperm donor ordered to pay maintenance for child after judge rules he is the father


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A professional man registered as a sperm donor on a website and advertised his willingness to participate in a "breeding party, ie a male-dominated orgy designed to get a woman pregnant", a High Court judge said today.

The man also said he "engaged in sexual activity with both members of a lesbian pair who had approached him via the website", said Mr Justice Peter Jackson.

His prolific sexual activity with recipients amounted to a " brazen flouting" of the rules of the website, said the judge.

The judge said the man was "bound in his professional life by a clear code of ethics", which made the risks he took "the more surprising".

His comments came in a written ruling following a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He said he had been asked to settle a dispute between the man and a woman after they met via the website. The judge said the woman had given birth to a boy, now aged two.

She said conception followed sex with the man. The man said conception had been the result of artificial insemination.

The judge said the dispute centred on a series of meetings between the pair in 2010. The woman said the meetings involved "15 days of sex". The man said they involved "15 donations by artificial insemination".

He decided in favour of the woman, ruled that the the boy had been conceived by "ordinary sexual intercourse" and that the man was the boy's "biological father" and legal parent.

The judge did not name either the man or the woman but referred to them as "Ms M" and "Mr F".

"I accept that Mr F first became involved in licensed donation altruistically and even now, I do not discount a residual element of altruism in his make-up or forget that there are many much-wanted children alive today as a result of his efforts. However, I am clear that in relation to his website activity his mainspring has been to meet his own needs, at least at a sexual level, " said Mr Justice Peter Jackson.

"This is seen by his behaviour in 2007, when he advertised himself in graphic terms as willing to participate in a 'breeding party', i.e. a male-dominated orgy designed to get a woman pregnant, though there is no suggestion that he actually took part in such activity. Likewise, he referred in evidence to an occasion when he engaged in sexual activity with both members of a lesbian pair who had approached him via the website.

"The fact that Mr F is bound in his professional life by a clear code of ethics makes the risks he was taking the more surprising. His prolific sexual activity with recipients amounted to a brazen flouting of the rules of the website, such as they were.

"In one relevant period of two to three months alone, he was on his own account having sex with three women and providing artificial insemination to two others. Most of these contacts had to be kept secret from the other women involved.

"The sheer logistical challenge alongside his professional life will have been a burden that he would have been likely to have laid down if he had not been driven on by some degree of compulsion."

The judge said the litigation had cost nearly £300,000 in total.

And he said evidence had revealed problems in controlling the "informal trade" in fertility treatment.

"Happily, many children are born to individuals or couples who have faced challenges in conceiving. Some births follow treatment at licensed clinics and others originate from informal arrangements. Either way, those involved must often be confronted by profound feelings and powerful forces. These include, relevantly to this case, a yearning for children, a need for friendship and a hunger for sex, forces that can overpower and defeat routine social conventions," said Mr Justice Peter Jackson.

"Nor should it be forgotten that, however difficult or unsatisfactory the circumstances of conception may have been, a child - as here - has been born. But it is naive to ignore the difficulties that can arise from time to time. Even in the field of regulated fertility treatment there are clear examples."

He added: "Nonetheless, regulation is broadly successful in protecting participants from exploitation and from health risks, while providing some certainty about legal relationships. Codes of Practice limit the number of times a person can donate sperm: in this country a donor can normally donate to a maximum of 10 families.

"In comparison, participants in informal arrangements have to judge all risks for themselves. They may not be in a good position to do so. Those seeking to conceive may be in a vulnerable state and not all donors are motivated by altruism.

"This informal trade is not unlawful, but it is not regulated in any meaningful way. The website in this case (which I will not name as it has not participated in the proceedings) is a case in point.

"It charges not inconsiderable fees to those looking for donors while projecting a rose-tinted account of successful, problem-free conception. It supplies a document entitled 'Donor Agreement' that purports to record agreement that the donor will have no rights in relation to the child and that the mother and the child will have no rights against the donor in any circumstances.

"The concern is that documents of this kind create the false impression that these informal arrangements are somehow regulated. While there is nothing wrong, and much to be recommended, in people recording their intentions, no one should be misled into believing that will have legal effect.

"In reality, on the evidence I have heard, there is no effective control whatever of the activities resulting from websites of this kind: for example, although it is said to be a cardinal rule of the website that it is 'artificial insemination only'. Mr F's own public profile on the site openly advertised him as offering 'artificial insemination and natural intercourse'. The present case amply demonstrates the risks involved for all participants in this process."