PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.
Naming a child is usually viewed as every new parent’s prerogative. However, in a unique decision, the Court of Appeal has intervened to prevent a troubled mother naming her twin son and daughter ‘Preacher’ and ‘Cyanide’.
The mother insisted that she alone had the right to choose her children’s names. She considered Cyanide to be a ‘lovely, pretty name’ with positive connotations as the poison which ended the lives of both Hitler and Goebbels. Preacher, she said, was ‘a rather cool name’ which sent a strong spiritual message and which would stand her son in good stead for the future.
She had a chaotic history of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse and relationships with abusive men and the twins were believed to have been conceived as a result of rape. The twins had been taken from her care by social workers soon after their birth and they had been sent to live with two of their older half-siblings and foster parents.
When the local authority learnt of the names that the mother had chosen for the twins, it took the case to court in an unprecedented step. A judge issued an injunction, forbidding the mother from formally registering the twins’ unorthodox forenames. In challenging that decision, the mother’s lawyers argued, amongst other things, that it breached her right to respect for her family life.
In dismissing the appeal, however, the Court found that, even allowing for changes in taste and fashion, naming a child after a notorious poison was unacceptable. Bearing such a name could emotionally harm the girl and, although there was nothing seriously objectionable about the name Preacher, the Court ruled that both twins should have their names chosen by their half-siblings.