Family Law Hub

H v F [2020] EWHC 86 (Fam)

An appeal against findings of fact at a hearing concerning complaints of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Russell J DBE found that there had been serious procedural irregularities at the hearing, such as ordering that the appellant gave evidence from counsel's row rather than behind a witness box. She also found that the judge's approach to fact-finding was so flawed as to lead to the conclusion that it was unsafe and wrong. He had failed to take into account relevant material as to the parties' relationship, including reports of aggressive, criminal and violent behaviour on the respondent's part. She held that the resulting judgment was flawed for a multiplicity of reasons, including that the judge failed to consider that the respondent's anxious presentation might be the result of previous abuse by the respondent. Other comments by the judge reflected a failure to consider or appreciate the reality of domestic abuse, control and coercion. The judge had concluded that sexually threatening texts were consistent with "sexting", though this had not been the respondent's case and was not put to the appellant. The judge's approach to the issue of consent, relying on his view that the appellant had not physically fought off the respondent, was "manifestly at odds with current jurisprudence, concomitant sexual behaviour, and what is currently acceptable socio-sexual conduct". It could not be lawful or jurisprudentially apposite for the Family Court to take an approach so much at odds from that which applies in the criminal jurisdiction. The case was remitted for retrial, and a formal request would be made for those judges who might hear cases involving allegations of serious sexual assault in family proceedings to be given training based on that provided to criminal judges.


Published: 23/01/2020

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