A mother in England has lost custody of her daughter after failing to make a “full-hearted” break from a cult and its “harmful teachings and beliefs”.
The woman had been told by the Court of Appeal in April that she must make a “definitive break” from Universal Medicine or risk losing her child, in a ruling which said her involvement with the group was a “source of ongoing harm” to the youngster.
In a British High Court judgment published in July, Mr Justice Williams found that the woman had made a “very limited disassociation” from Universal Medicine and ruled the girl should live with her father.
The child, aged nine, was at the centre of a battle between her parents over her living arrangements and her alleged exposure to the teachings of Universal Medicine – understood to have been founded in Australia in 1999.
Her father argued the youngster should not be exposed to the group’s ideas and should live with him, while her mother did not accept concerns about the organisation and wanted a reduction in the time the girl spent with her father.
A judge at the Central Family Court ruled in January that Universal Medicine “is a cult with some potentially harmful and sinister elements” and found evidence put forward by the father “relating to the harmful and potentially harmful influence and effect of Universal Medicine to be compelling”.
Judge James Meston QC ruled that a shared-care order made in 2017, which barred the mother from taking her daughter to Universal Medicine meetings and from imposing its teaching on her, should stand, provided the mother “give formal, clear and specific undertakings” to the court that she would disassociate herself and her child from Universal Medicine and its practices.
The father appealed against the judge’s decision and took his case to the Court of Appeal.
In a ruling published in April, three senior judges allowed the appeal, saying the girl “must be distanced entirely from Universal Medicine”.
They postponed making a final decision on the father’s application and sent the case back to the Family Division of the High Court, saying by determining the matter in this way, they were giving the mother “a very short respite during which she will have one last chance to take her own steps to leave Universal Medicine, start intensive therapy”, and to “reverse the process of alienation” of the child from her father.
In the latest ruling, Mr Justice Williams said the evidence “points unerringly to the conclusion that the mother’s disassociation from Universal Medicine is a very limited disassociation”.
He said: “Distancing herself from the organisation itself and from the individuals she knows through it is a skin-deep disassociation rather than a full-hearted one.
“It may be that the mother truly believes that that is all that the Court of Appeal – or more importantly the welfare of her daughter – required; a physical separation.
“However, if that is so, it is a further example of the mother’s failure to truly get to grips with the substance of the problem, which is the pernicious effect of her adherence to the teachings and practices of Universal Medicine and their impact on her much-loved daughter.”
The ruling said: “For what it is worth I would emphasise that until the mother is able to free herself from the psychological bonds that tie her to Universal Medicine and its harmful teachings and beliefs, the possibility of her playing anything like a full role in the child’s life is extremely limited.
“If the scales truly fall from her eyes and she is able to not only physically separate herself from Universal Medicine but also to psychologically disentangle herself and to re-establish her psychological independence, then she has much to offer her child and may then be able to resume a more significant role.”
Mr Justice Williams said that while there will be “short-term harm and distress” for the child from moving to live with her father, “underlying the current estrangement” are “the foundations of a positive and beneficial relationship”.
He said: “At present, they lie buried beneath the rubble of the previously positive father-daughter construction which crumbled as a result of exposure to the elements of Universal Medicine.
“With the removal of those elemental forces I am satisfied that the father and child will be able to clear the rubble and to construct something new on the firm foundations which still exist.
“That will also enable the child to maintain a relationship with her mother who has many qualities.”
He added: “I hope that the mother is able in due course to recognise the true nature of Universal Medicine and the full extent of its harmful consequences for her, the father and most importantly for her daughter.” The child and her family have not been identified.