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Judicial appointment is not a licence to be gratuitously rude

 

You may recall His Honour Judge Dodds, who has not had the best time with appeals in the lifespan of this blog.

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/02/02/sentence-first-verdict-afterwards/

where he made full Care Orders at the first hearing, when none of the parties were expecting that or asking for it.

 

and

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2014/07/02/go-on-then-appeal-me-i-dare-you/

 

Where the Judge refused to assess family members largely because they were in Poland and offered the remarkable sentence of “If you don’t like it, there is always the Court of Appeal”

 

And this is the one that I’ve been waiting for.

Re A (Children) 2015

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed143386

 

This was an appeal, arising from the conduct of a hearing. The Judge was asked for several things at that hearing. The mother and father both applied to discharge the Care Order and for more contact. The child SA, asked for DNA testing, saying that she had always had doubts that the father was really her biological father.

It is quite a short judgment, and practically every line of it is remarkable. This is the sort of thing that people who disapprove of the family justice system can rightly point to and say “This is the sort of thing that goes on”

In this case, the appeal was probably the easiest that the Court of Appeal have ever had to deal with – every single aspect of the hearing was wrong and improper. So in this case, the system screwed up royally, but then worked because an appeal put things right. But what we can never know is how many times something a bit like this happens and the advocates don’t appeal. Either they can’t get funding, or their client doesn’t want to, or they take the view that appealing a Judge who approaches things in this way is going to be counter productive in the future  (the “don’t poke an angry bear with a stick” argument)

 

It is a terrible indictment and this case makes sorry reading. The only consolation really is that the child herself was not in Court.

 

5. The importance of and the right of children to know the identity of their biological father has long been recognised and has only recently been restated by the President in Re Z (Children) [2014] EWHC 1999 Fam. Para 5. An application under section 55A is the proper procedural route in order to determine the parentage of a child. It must therefore have caused Ms Roberts and Mr Saunders (who acted on behalf of the Local Authority), considerable consternation when the judge, having dismissed out of hand the father’s application to discharge the care order as, “Factious” and the mother’s as, “An affront”, turned to Mr Saunders and told him that in relation to the section 55A application, “You may want to put your crash helmet on”.

6. Mr Saunders and Ms Roberts valiantly tried to explain to the judge what they sought and why they sought it, only to be met with evermore intemperate responses from the judge. In relation, for example, to the cost of the DNA testing, Ms Roberts told the judge that Legal Aid would paid for it. The response was, “You can pay for it if you want, I will let you. In fact, I am half minded to make an order that you do so”. Judge Dodds continued, “If she (meaning SA) told you that the moon is made of green cheese will you say, ‘Yes, S, no, S, three bags full S?” He continued: “The lunatics have truly taken over the asylum” and “For heaven sake, in this day and age especially, just because the lunatic says, ‘I want, I want’, you do not have to respond by spoon feeding their every wish”. The judge went on to comment, “Can I tell you how bitterly resentful I am at how much of my Saturday I spent reading this codswallop”.

7. Finally, the judge in dealing with the actual application said, “There is not a syllable of evidence before me to warrant making the order you seek and so it is refused”. He went concluded:

“At lest there be a nanosecond’s doubt as to the application for an order under section 55A of the Family Law Act 1986, I am nothing short of appalled that it was thought that public funds could be expended upon such nonsense. And I tell you I am within a hair’s breadth of ordering that any costs incurred in respect of that application should be paid by you.”

 

 

The Appeal Court, as indicated earlier, had no trouble in deciding that the appeal had to be granted and the case sent back to a different Judge for re-hearing.

 

9. In my judgment, it is not necessary to consider the merits of the application itself. The submission that the hearing amounted to a serious procedural irregularity is unanswerable. Each of the points made in the skeleton argument are made good when the transcript is considered. The judge did not allow proper submissions to be made; the premature threat of costs inevitably, and rightly, gave the impression that the judge had a closed mind in relation to the application and no proper reasons were given for the decision to dismiss the application. The manner in which the hearing was conducted went far beyond anything that could be characterised as robust case management.

10. In the event, neither parent attended the hearing, fortunately, although not surprisingly, SA was not there either. Even so, the unrestrained and immoderate language used by the judge must, I am afraid, be deplored and is wholly unacceptable. Such bombast can only leave advocates seeking to present, on instructions, their cases to the court feeling browbeaten and impotent and, rightly, as though their lay clients have been denied a fair hearing.

 

 

and

 

The transcript of the hearing makes embarrassing reading and I hope that Judge Dodds will read it for himself and be ashamed of his behaviour on that particular occasion. Appointment as a judge, at whatever level, is not a license for intemperate language or for being gratuitously rude to advocates and others appearing before you. Judge Dodds’ behaviour on that occasion was beyond what is permissible. It meant that there was a serious procedural irregularity. That particular hearing was not fair. I do emphasise that my remarks concern only that one particular hearing. However, this appeal must be allowed.

 

I am aware that the newspapers in Liverpool made enquiries about whether there was an investigation or complaint into judicial conduct as a result, and were told that there was not, because no complaint had been received.  One does not want to see judicial complaints made each and every time a Judge loses an appeal or gets something wrong, but you might think that an appeal judgment as serious as this might be a trigger for an investigation without a formal complaint being made.

 

[In case you are ever before a Court and this sort of thing happens, and I very much hope that it never does, there is a formal body who deal with complaints about judicial conduct, as a separate body to the appeal process which deals with the decision made.

 

http://judicialconduct.judiciary.gov.uk/making-a-complaint.htm

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About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

10 responses

  1. Forcibly adopted kids rarely know who their birth mother was or who their birth father was and it’s a crying shame !!

  2. We make no bones that this judge is a disgrace to society because of his terrible attitude and unmitigated arrogance and so hope he will be impeached. There really needs to be a full public inquiry into his errant ways stemming way back from serving at the Bar, because in fact as head of chambers in Preston he was one of the social engineering pioneers of the junk science of so-called expert reports which disproportionally destroyed families which could and should have been saved with a little help – a dirty lawyer who unsurprisingly degenerated into a bent judge.

  3. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    We make no bones that this judge is a disgrace to society because of his terrible attitude and unmitigated arrogance and so hope he will be impeached. There really needs to be a full public inquiry into his errant ways stemming way back from serving at the Bar, because in fact as head of chambers in Preston he was one of the social engineering pioneers of the junk science of so-called expert reports which disproportionally destroyed families which could and should have been saved with a little help – a dirty lawyer who unsurprisingly degenerated into a bent judge.

  4. Jerry Lonsdale

    There is a lot of anger in the City about this Judge, I was dumbfounded to see his name on the hearing board last Friday when I was in Family Court, a full list he had too.

    I am also aware a team of City Legal Firms have issued jointly a full and proper complaint to the OJC in regards to the actions of HHJ Dodds.

    I knew the last “Outing” by HHJ Dodds was shocking this however is beyond reproach, hopefully now this Judgment has finally been published, matters can move forwards and true and proper action can be taken!

  5. Ashamed to be British

    “One does not want to see judicial complaints made each and every time a Judge loses an appeal or gets something wrong, but you might think that an appeal judgment as serious as this might be a trigger for an investigation without a formal complaint being made.”

    Maybe not every judgement, but certainly most of them, why on earth isn’t there an immediate enquiry when this sort of thing happens? I can’t think of any other job where one can act in such a reprehensible manner without redress, (apart from PM) especially in light of this particular judge who seems to be either constantly on his period or has lost his mental capacity to be sitting on the bench.
    We are not speaking of a ‘one off’ situation, this is a common and persistent theme … any parent who knows they are in front of him, quite rightly starts to kiss their asses goodbye, he’s a disgrace and so are those who supposedly regulate him. It’s now time to call for his resignation, which I’m sure will be a comfortable retirement on the back of the unnecessary misery he has caused.

    • I’d agree with you for rudeness. (I was meaning more that an appeal can be successful without a Judge having behaved badly or screwed up, and not every appeal should trigger an investigation).

      Perhaps this particular Judge just had three very very very very very bad days. But I think when they were as bad as that, it warrants some further attention.

  6. Jerry Lonsdale

    This case Judgment turns about face to a suggestion I made a few “moons” ago whereby there is scope for an independent body set up for parents/children/families who feel aggrieved about their treatment by courts or others surrounding family court matters and proceedings, there are countless organisations for the professional bodies yet those at the forefront of the issues, there is no independent body to turn too, that pendulum must be moved to restore the balance of fairness.

    I could list one of the longest lists conceivable the amount of cases where parents have approached the “Complaints” departments of either the L.A, GCSS,[now – HCPC] or even the OJC only to be told “Your case is still ongoing” then the door is swiftly closed in their faces, those organisations are simply not independent enough for the matters to be fairly and openly addressed.

    Like with this case, this poor girl can only find some sort of redress through the appeal courts, maybe also the OJC will intervene, however that will come at some great deal of time and no doubts some financial costs to someone down the line as well before any decent redress is given.

  7. A concerned professional

    There seem to be many anecdotal reports/ comments from around the country, made by various professionals, in cases where Judges appear to have lost regard of their oath on appointment. Those appointing or scrutinising such judges also appear to have developed cathartic minds frames to such injustices where every other right minded person know are wrong. Every party, representative and professional who come before such judges, in matters concerning a Child’s right, must wonder the value of having rules set out in legislation, procedure and evidence, with clear precedent, if that is all skewed to be superimposed by a disgruntled “judge” (!) taking an arbitrary and personal view.

    Many parties and professional commentators know full well that in the family courts where Children’s rights should not be shredded in this fashion that there should be a totally independent yet robust and expert body which can immediately hold such errant and not fit for purposes “judges”.

    More transparency, accountability, independent oversight and urgent action needed to root this type of scenario happening.

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  9. Shirley Buckley

    If you think the above is bad you should read MrJustice Charles judgments in the case Surrey CC v MB (my son) SB (me). I have permission to publish. He wrote (among other things) that I was disingenuous, inflexible, not able to give a straight yes or no to questions, and then put a penal notice on me that I was forbidden from discouraging my son from going to the Wincroke Unit,from criticising the staff etc. at the unit, from telling my son that any other placement IS SUPERIOR TO THE UNIT IN ANY RESPECT etc. At the moment I am trying to appeal the case on Martin’s behalf, and I have put in a complaint to the Court of Appeal, but I need to chase this, and dont know how. I have written personally to Sir James Munby but have no idea what has happened to this. I wrote to you previously about my bundle, the letter should be part of this Bundle. Any advice is welcome.

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