What’s In A Child’s Name?

Is it one rule for us and another rule for the rich and famous?


A Court of Appeal has recently upheld an order made in the Swansea Court where a mother was prevented from naming her twins “Cyanide” and “Preacher”.


On first reading, it seems quite logical that one ought to think very carefully about naming their children that way, especially with the taunts and jibes that they may receive in the playground.  It has not escaped my notice, certainly, that a recent report indicated that 50% of children are bullied in school. Whether that is right or not is another matter.  However, calling your children Cyanide or Preacher is not going to help things, that’s for sure.  The case concerned C (Children [2016] EWCA CIV364) where the Court had to determine whether there was a power in the jurisdiction of England and Wales to prevent a parent who has parent responsibility from registering a child with a forename of their own personal choice and, if not, by which procedural route the Court should exercise their power to prevent the child’s name from being so registered.


It is also worthy of note that, in this case, the mother had a long standing diagnosis of mental illness and her parenting skills were impaired further by drug and other substance misuse.


At the first instance, the Judge declared that the local authority were permitted to stop the mother from exercising her parental responsibility in such a way that she would not be able to register the children’s forenames of Cyanide and Preacher.  On appeal, Lady Justice King stated that she also came to the conclusion that there are a small category of cases where the Court ought to intervene in a specific set of circumstances to curtail the parental responsibility of a parent where the impact of that is so profound when will have such a significant impact on the child that it would be right to do so despite Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.


For the sake of completeness, the European Convention of Human Rights relates to the right to family life without inappropriate interference by the State.


It seems to me, on first reading of that, that it makes sense.  However, looked at against the backstop of how celebrities name their children and how we almost consider them, in some cases, to have “trendy” names or just simply tolerate the fact that they have changed the child’s name and because they are rich and famous it is acceptable for them to do so, but yet not acceptable for a mother with mental health issues to do the same.


Admittedly, Cyanide and Preacher are not names that I would wish to call my children.


But neither would I wish to call my children Kal-L, who is one of the children of Nicholas Cage, none other than, nor would I wish to call my name Pilot Inspektor, who is the child of Jason Lee, nor would I wish to call my child Moxie Crimefighter, who is the child of Penn Jillette and, in particular, I would certainly not wish to call my child Zuma Nesta Rock, who is the child of Gwen Stefani.


There are a litany of other such ridiculous names but ridiculous only to me and perhaps to many others but not, presumably, ridiculous to the parents who so chose those names.


So do we allow a mother with mental health issues to choose names for her children, not dissimilar to what some may see as being ridiculous names for the rich or famous or do we interfere in those rights to have an overarching moral and other responsibility to protect them from harm in the long term.


On balance, I would suggest that it is probably right to interfere under the circumstances, in my personal view (not my professional view). I am sure people who like the names of Fifi Trixibell (a child of Bob Geldof) or of Jermajesty, the child of Jermaine Jackson, may not be inclined to agree.


This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.


Shak Inayat
0207 183 2898