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Child Arrangements

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  • 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. Judgment, 23/01/2020, free
  • This hearing followed on from that in Re C1 and C2 (Child Arrangements) [2019] EWHC B15 (Fam), involving the same father but a different mother. In this hearing, the mother of these two children, aged six and eight, applied to extend an existing s.91(14) order for a period of five years. Keehan J found that the defects in the father's personality and his character were such that he posed a risk of serious emotional and psychological harm to the mother of these two children, as it had been found to do with regards to the mother of the two children in the earlier hearing. A period of two years would be an appropriate one to give the father the chance to make the changes that he needed to make, for his own benefit, and for the benefit of his children. However, Keehan J regretted that, in the absence of further incidents since 2016, there was no legal basis for making or extending a non-molestation order and that application was dismissed. The mother's application for costs was refused. Judgment, 03/01/2020, free
  • The father applied for child arrangements orders in respect of these two children. Pursuant to s.91(14) of the Children Act 1989, the mother applied to prevent the father from making any further Children Act applications without leave of the court. The father was a litigant in person, but also a qualified member of the Bar, and yet his behaviour during the hearing was described by Keehan J as appalling, aggressive, incoherent and intimidating, for example with regard to the expert witness psychologist during cross-examination. This supported the conclusions in her report as to his lack of empathy and narcissistic personality disorder. An order for direct contact would have a devastating impact upon the mother, which would have a serious adverse impact indirectly on the two children. Keehan J was entirely satisfied that it was not in the best interests of either child to have direct contact with the father, and a s.91(14) order was imposed upon him for a period of two years. He was urged to seek professional help. Judgment, 03/01/2020, free
  • In the course of applying for a Child Arrangements Order, the father brought an appeal against a finding of fact regarding the sexual act which led to the birth of the child. He argued that HHJ Scully had been wrong to describe the act as rape. Cobb J was satisfied that HHJ Scully had carefully evaluated the evidence laid before her, and reached conclusions which corresponded with the evidence. The appeal was dismissed. Judgment, 03/12/2019, free
  • The father applied for permission to appeal and for a stay with regards to an interim Child Arrangements Order made in order to permit the mother to take the child on a European holiday. Theis J found that there were grounds for permission to appeal, as a live with order made had not been not before the court as an issue to be determined. But there was minimal risk of the child not returning to this jurisdiction, and the jurisdiction which they were visiting had effective procedures in place that would swiftly ensure the child's return if required, which Theis J considered unlikely. Judgment, 02/12/2019, free

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