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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 15:59 GMT
Q&A: Blunkett paternity battle
Home Secretary David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett is embroiled in a court battle
David Blunkett has won the first round of his legal battle to gain paternity rights and access to the two-year-old son of a former lover.

Mr Blunkett claims he is the father of the child, but his former girlfriend, married Kimberly Quinn, says he is not. BBC News takes a closer look.

What happened in court on Friday?

Mr Blunkett applied on 11 November for paternity and access rights to the child.

On Friday, High Court judge Mr Justice Ryder was asked to decide whether a district court judge was right in refusing Mrs Quinn an adjournment of the case until April 2005 on health grounds.

Lawyers for Mrs Quinn, who is seven months pregnant and being treated in hospital for stress, argued a court battle now would threaten her health and potentially harm her unborn child.

How did Mr Justice Ryder rule?

He rejected Mrs Quinn's arguments.

He said she was fully able to instruct her lawyers and "to take a good part in these proceedings until days, if not hours, before the hearing".

He also accepted Mr Blunkett's argument that delaying the proceedings until next April would damage the home secretary's relationship with the boy.

Why was the case held in public?

Mr Ryder said he was giving his judgment in public so the record could be set straight.

He also said he wanted to ensure the public would not think the family justice system is "wrongly cloaked" secrecy.

However, the child in question was not named and was only referred to as "A". Further hearings will be held in private.

What happens next?

The judge said it had not yet been established whether Mr Blunkett was the biological father of Child A.

He said that contrary to press reports, neither party had sought scientific tests to establish the boy's parentage.

However, Mr Ryder said it was in the child's best interest to have his parentage determined at the earliest opportunity by the court.

What will happen if Mr Blunkett is established as the child's father?

There is a heavy presumption under family law that it is in a child's best interest to have contact with both biological parents.

There would have to be exceptional circumstances for Mr Blunkett not to be given access.

The Quinns may argue that introducing a high profile stranger, like the home secretary, would cause disruption to the child. But family law experts say this is unlikely to sway a judge.

Doesn't Mr Blunkett also want a say in how the child is brought up?

He does - but this area of the law is a little trickier.

If awarded a parental responsibility order, Mr Blunkett would have the same rights as any natural parent, such as giving medical consent or signing school forms.

But there is not the same presumption in law that it is in the child's best interests, although lawyers suggest it is likely to follow if access is awarded.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why the hearing was held in public



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