Baby Gammy: Twin sister to stay in Australia despite father's conviction for child sex offences

David Farnell only poses a 'low risk of harm' to Pipah, twin sister of Baby Gammy - the babies who were born to a surrogate mother in Thailand in 2013. Pipah will continue to live in Australia, while her brother lives in Thailand

Hardeep Matharu
Thursday 14 April 2016 10:15 BST
Pipah will remain with David Farnell and Wendy Li in Australia, while her brother Gammy lives in Thailand with their surrogate mother
Pipah will remain with David Farnell and Wendy Li in Australia, while her brother Gammy lives in Thailand with their surrogate mother (60 Minutes )

The twin sister of ‘Baby Gammy’ can remain living in Australia with her parents, despite the father’s conviction for child sex offences nearly 20 years ago, a court has ruled.

Justice Stephen Thackray, Chief Judge of the Family Court of Western Australia, also said that David Farnell and Wendy Li had not abandoned Baby Gammy, who has Down’s Syndrome, in Thailand with the twins’ surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua, after they were born there in December 2013.

Mr Farnell, 58, and his wife, Wendy Li, 50, from Bunbury, came to the world’s attention in 2014 when they used a Thai surrogate, Mrs Chanbua, 22 – but only returned to Australia with one of the twins born to her, Pipah.

Pipah’s brother, known as Baby Gammy, was left with Mrs Chanbua in Thailand, where she lives with her husband.

Justice Thackray’s judgement was handed down on Thursday after the surrogate mother applied for legal custody of Pipah, on the grounds that she did not want her being brought up by a convicted sex offender.

Mr Farnell was jailed in the 1990s after being convicted of molesting young girls.

But Justice Thackray told the court that Pipah could continue to live with him and Ms Li, subject to various conditions.

He said: “Pipah should not be removed from the only family she has ever known, in order to be placed with people who would be total strangers to her.

“While it is a matter of grave concern to leave any child in the home of a convicted sex offender, I have accepted the expert evidence that while there is a low risk of harm if Pipah stays in that home, there is a high risk of harm if she is removed.”

The judge said the couple had not intended to leave Baby Gammy behind, and did not try to access a trust fund – set up through donations made by members of the public from around the world to help with his upbringing – to spend on Pipah or to meet their legal costs.

Pattaramon Chanbua with 'Baby Gammy'
Pattaramon Chanbua with 'Baby Gammy' (Getty Images)

Justice Thackray said the couple had tried to take both children home, but that they genuinely believed that Mrs Chanbua had decided to keep the boy.

“In August 2014, the information about Pipah living with Mr Farnell passed into the public domain,” the judge said.

“In the media frenzy that followed, the story was spread all around the world that the Farnells had abandoned ‘Baby Gammy’ because he had Down syndrome.

The anguish this caused the Farnells was exacerbated by the fact that the story was untrue.”

Justice Thackray said that the couple had found out a few months before the twins were born that the baby boy had Down’s syndrome.

He said Mrs Chanbua had, by this point, “fallen in love with the twins she was carrying and had decided she was going to keep the boy”.

He added: “She was told by a fortune teller that the boy would bring good luck. This was significant at least for her grandmother, who had taken Mrs Chanbua to the fortune teller when it was discovered the boy might have Down syndrome.”

The judge said that the couple had asked an employee of the Thailand Surrogacy agency they used to “plead with Mrs Chanbua for them to have both children”.

But, “although the Farnells still wanted both children, they finally accepted that Mrs Chanbua would not allow this”.

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