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Minnock judgments (part 2) and a different judicial approach

Well, firstly, I’m pleased that the child has been found. And I’m not going to speculate about the future outcome of the case.

 

But I thought that people who have been interested might like to see the next four judgments.

https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/roger-williams-v-rebecca-minnock-and-ethan-freeman-williams-2-judgments/

 

They are the bottom four (beginning 12th June)

The 12th June judgment is unusual, in that it doesn’t read as a case where the Judge was being asked to decide an issue or make an order. Rather, he is helpfully setting out for those involved that if there is a commital application (where a person might get sent to prison) they are entitled to free legal advice and representation and what the magic words are. He then goes on, largely for the benefit of the Press and public to set out how the Courts make decisions about where a child lives, what factors come into account, the representation that the parents have had, and what factors the Court would take account of in the future, stressing that what the Court wants is to make sure that the child has a proper relationship with both parents. It is almost a judicial press release.  I’ve not seen that happen before, but I think in a case with so much media attention and public interest, it is actually a really sensible thing to have done and I hope that future Judges consider it.  If you wanted to understand what the legal background was to the case, it is all there.

The next judgment is describing that the child is safely returned, and explaining that the mother’s plan in the case was to use the Press to gain sympathy for her cause and to thwart the decision of the Court.  People may have their own view as to whether she was justified or not, but if you have a strong view, I’d recommend that you read that judgment to see if it remains the same. The really remarkable thing about this judgment is that at the end, the Judge allowed members of the Press to ask him questions directly and answered them.

I’ve never seen that happen in a family case before, but it seems to me a remarkably sensible approach. It must surely result in more responsible, balanced and nuanced reporting that the Press had the chance to ask questions directly of the Judge.  I applaud it.

The third (private hearing 15th June) sets out that the future decisions in the case need to be made without public spotlight, although a judgment will be published after the case is over, and allowing father to provide a short statement to the press.

 

And the fourth (and so far final) is a purge of contempt (by the partner of the maternal grandmother) for his part in the press campaign and more importantly in lying about the child’s whereabouts. For non-lawyers a purge of contempt is where a person who has been sent to prison for breaking court orders goes before the same Judge to express remorse and regret and ask for his sentence to be reduced or ended. In this case, the man was released from custody.

 

The Judge did ask, in his judgments, for the Press to refrain from speculation about where the child might live and whether mum would get to see him again and how that would work, and I’d therefore ask people to do the same in comments.

But what do people think about the Judge’s approach to openness in the case ? Very fast publication of the judgments, allowing the Press to come in, delivering a judgment that explained all of the balancing factors and principles, and allowing the Press to ask him questions? I think it is all very new, and the law is generally terrified of innovation, but we may come back to look on this case as a watershed in the family Courts not merely paying lip-service to the idea of transparency but really engaging in the process of explaining to the Press and public what is happening.  And balancing that with keeping really private things private.

 

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About suesspiciousminds

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

7 responses

  1. Jerry Lonsdale

    I have specifically avoided any response to this whole case on principle that there are still a few holes left to fill, e.g the original lower case judgment, without it speculation would be rife,

    I would further say that we have seen all too often how cases can explode into an almighty battle like we saw with the Ashya King and the “Forced C Section” cases.

    When we or the courts have to resort to publishing the name of a child I feel very uncomfortable with that and while I do see some minuscule merit I tend to sense something along the line has gone spectacularly wrong.

    I feel now we need to revisit the Clayton v Clayton ruling from 2005 and particularly paragraphs 77 and 78

    http://www.5rb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Clayton-v-Clayton-CA-27-Jun-2006.pdf

    “77. The practical consequence which flows from this judgment is that henceforth it will
    be appropriate for every tribunal, when making what it believes to be a final order in
    proceedings under the 1989 Act, to consider whether or not there is an outstanding
    welfare issue which needs to be addressed by a continuing order for anonymity. This
    will, I think, be a useful discipline for parties, judges, and family practitioners alike.
    If there is no outstanding welfare issue, then it is likely that the penal consequences of
    s.97 of the 1989 Act will cease to have any effect, and the parties will be able to put
    into the public domain any matter relating to themselves and their children which they
    wish to publish, provided that the publication does not offend against s.12 AJA 1960.

    78. Our judgments in this case are likely to have an impact, and must not be
    misunderstood. The fact that the provisions of s.97(2) of the 1989 Act, cease to
    operate after the conclusion of the proceedings does not mean that parents are free at
    that point to draw their children into an ongoing public debate about their welfare or
    other wider issues. The court, after the conclusion of the proceedings, retains its
    welfare jurisdiction and will be able to intervene where a child’s welfare is put at risk
    by inappropriate parental identification for publicity purposes. Quite where the line is
    to be drawn between CA 1989, section 1, and ECHR, Articles 8 and 10, in this
    context remains to be seen, although I venture to think that in practice most parents
    will recognise it. But let those parents who do not be in no doubt that the court’s
    powers under the ss 1 and 8 of the 1989 Act remain, as do its powers to grant
    injunctions.”

    With this Minnock case I still question whether it was right to name the Child, was the child at such imminent risk to justify it, again when Ashya King was names it was “Thought” he was in grave danger and could die within 24 hours, with that sentiment only to be proved wrong once the judgments were published.

  2. The mothers escape happened not because she lost custody but because they said she would lose all unsupervised contact.No non criminal non violent parent should ever lose contact .Both parents in such cases should have reasonable periods of such contact if the ss are serious about children having a relationship with both parents .

  3. Sorry Suess, but I can not do you the favor to smooth over that case and only talk about if this woman still deserves to see her kid and how often.

    Whoever has seen a family court from the inside and was at the receiving end of perpetrator legal abuse knows that a very awful routine has happened here all over again.

    Without seeing the actual evidence that was put in front of the court and that the judge used or not used for his judgement we can read endless many judgments and it is entirely pointless and nothing else but a form of “legal press release”.

    A judge can say whatever he/she wants in a judgment as long as he/she is able to put it forward in a legal speech framework. Every argument can be made, every political manouver – in the end, the judge has all the power – including to throw people into prison – and the ordinary people before and around him have none. It does not matter anymore what really happened and if this mother and this child were really abused. Judge Wildblood writes his version of the truth and sets it in stone, just like countless other judges do. It is an endless production of fairytales about women alledgedly using their children to harm their exes, and I always wonder if all these judges are plainly uneducated about perpetrator violence and total legal bureaucracy geeks with no clue about the real world or are simply women haters themselves.

    As long as Ms Minnock and her family are not able to fight this judgment effectively in the legal arena, the system has hereby written it’s own story on them and there is nothing they can do about it. Surely, the judge knows that and has hereby safed his reputation.

    What about the evidence that supports what Ms Minnock claimed about her ex, such as by this group of neighbours who have witnessed the abuse this woman went through?

    “But a group of Mr Williams’s neighbours yesterday called for Miss Minnock to be given custody of Ethan. They made a series of allegations against Mr Williams and his conduct during the time he was with her and their split. In an open letter, the seven residents criticised the ‘unfair’ custody battle which left Miss Minnock with no right to see her son and said she ‘has been served an unforgivable injustice’.”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3122042/Rebecca-Minnock-hands-son-Ethan.html

    The kid can even tell it’s mum during supervised contact that it is abused by dad, and the social workers present will do absolutely nothing about it for the kid, but they will very likely turn even that revelation against the mother (“mum coaches kid through brain waves, this is why we must stop contact alltogether”). Perhaps you would like to conduct a little survey amongst people in the know about these subjects, dear Suess, outside your law geek arena. I know you asked for no debatte, but that’s the entire point, that these issues and cases need to be debatted, because you can not make something unjust just by simply declaring it so.

    Frankly, the entire purpose of family courts and a protective legal system whose official job is to protect victims of abuse and uphold justice has deteriotated into nothing but a sick farce.

  4. Ashamed to be British

    Interesting that the judge wants to revert back to secret court … it seems that’s what brought them to this mess in the first place

  5. Seems to me that the case has been well handled. Detailed investigation and the appointment of an expert whose expertise is very much in this field. I note a few comments about what was going to happen which simply don’t fit the case history as published. People would do well to read the published judgments as they are, rather than insert facts and intentions which simply aren’t there. One of the risks of trial by social media I suppose.

  6. Surely, there are no better experts then those protective parents and their children who are at the receiving end of perpetrator legal abuse, and judicial and court expert incompetence. As I have already stated before – a judgment is a judicial press release. It reveals nothing to the amateur but the official agenda, and a lot of awfulness to those who learned the hard way to read between the lines.

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