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Sperm donor named legal parent and ordered to pay £300,000

5 August 2013
Appeared in BioNews 716

A sperm donor conceived a child during an 'intense extramarital affair', a High Court judge has ruled, and has been ordered to pay litigation costs of £300,000 and child maintenance.

The donor, known only as Mr F, was registered on a sperm donation website through which he had fathered 30 children, and he had also advertised his availability for breeding parties – a 'male-dominated orgy designed to get a woman pregnant'.

Mr F fathered a child, who is now two years old, with a married client, known only as Ms M, through the website. Mr Justice Peter Jackson found that the child was conceived via 'ordinary sexual intercourse', making Mr F a legal parent and responsible for child maintenance costs.

Ms M and Mr F arranged a meeting in 2010 following Ms M's difficulty in conceiving a child. Her husband at the time, Mr H, was 30 years older and had a vasectomy. Ms M alleged that conception via sexual intercourse then took place during '15 days of sex' meaning Mr F was the legal parent of the child. However, Mr F, denied this and claimed that the meeting consisted of '15 days of artificial insemination'. If the conception occurred as Mr F claimed, the legal status of parentage would fall under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.

With regards to the donor website, Mr Justice Jackson clarified that: 'This informal trade is not unlawful, but it is not regulated in any meaningful way. The website in this case (which I will not name as it has not participated in the proceedings) is a case in point'.

However, in relation to this particular case, he also said: '[It should not] be forgotten that, however difficult or unsatisfactory the circumstances of conception may have been, a child - as here - has been born. But it is naive to ignore the difficulties that can arise from time to time. Even in the field of regulated fertility treatment there are clear examples.'

The informality of the relevant sperm donation was further revealed in Mr F's profile description, which offered 'artificial insemination and natural intercourse' despite the website's rule of artificial insemination only.

Mr Justice Jackson said: 'I accept that Mr F first became involved in licensed donation altruistically and even now, I do not discount a residual element of altruism in his makeup or forget that there are many much-wanted children alive today as a result of his efforts. However, I am clear that in relation to his website activity his mainspring has been to meet his own needs, at least at a sexual level'. Both Ms M and Mr F hold high academic and professional qualifications. Mr Justice Jackson said: 'The fact that Mr F is bound in his professional life by a clear code of ethics makes the risks he was taking the more surprising.'

Mr F now faces up to £300,000 in legal costs as well as maintenance payments for the child.

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