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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
  • The mother requested permission to take her nine-year-old son on holiday to Brazil. The boy was living with the father in England, while the mother had previously made and then withdrawn a wrongful removal claim under the 1980 Hague Convention. Roberts J accepted the mother's evidence that she intended to ensure the child's safe return at the end of any stay in Brazil. The risk was that she would change her mind once the boy was there or be persuaded by her family not to return him. On balance, Roberts J was persuaded that the potential benefits to the child of spending time with his mother in Brazil outweighed the potential risks of a wrongful retention, provided that certain protections, including mirror orders, were in place before the visit. Judgment, 14/01/2020, free
  • A circuit judge sitting in the Family Court had held that the father, on a single occasion, had sexually abused his daughter. Holman J found that the judge's findings, in a very difficult case, were unreliable. He identified ten issues with them, including that no independent expert view had been brought to bear upon the forensic evidence. Justice, not only to the father but above all to the child, required that the whole matter be reconsidered afresh by a completely different judge. The very young age of the child made this an exceptional case and so the re-hearing would take place before a High Court judge. Judgment, 14/01/2020, 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

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