This case follows on from
in which it emerged that according to a legal argument, all of us are declared legally dead after the age of 7 and thus laws no longer apply to us. Citing the Cestui Cue Vie Act of 1666. [Hint, we are not]
That was a hearing as to whether the father should register the name of his child, this is the final hearing of the care proceedings.
T (A child), Re  EWFC 4 (23 January 2020)
The bit that is useful to family law practitioners and Judges who are dealing with the whole category of ‘I say the Children Act doesn’t apply to me because of X’ arguments is this:-
1. I am concerned here with T, a male child born in the Spring of 2019. The mother (M) is represented by Counsel and solicitor. The father (F) has elected at this final hearing, as he has done throughout the proceedings, to act as a litigant in person. This decision is driven by his fundamental belief that neither the Court nor the State, through the arm of the Local Authority, has any jurisdiction to take decisions in relation to his children. He invests great belief in the scope and ambit of The Cestui Cue Vie Act 1666. I have addressed this in an earlier judgment  EWHC 1572 (Fam). However, when F came into the witness box to give evidence, he requested that he take his oath based on an embossed document, which he had prepared, emphasising his “decree of divine sovereignty”. I permitted him to do so, for entirely pragmatic reasons. He has requested that I determine as a preliminary issue whether he, as a “Sovereign being” can be required to answer questions in these proceedings and, if not, he seeks an immediate order for the return of all his children.
2.Whilst I recognise that F’s beliefs are strongly held and, I believe, genuinely so, I have little hesitation in concluding that he is required to engage as fully as possible in these proceedings, brought by this Local Authority to protect T from what they contend is ‘significant harm’, as contemplated by Section 31 (2) Children Act 1989 (‘the Act’). Parliament has enacted the legal framework by which vulnerable children are protected and provided scope for parental rights and responsibilities to be evaluated in the application of the criteria within Sec 1 (2) of the Act, ‘the welfare check list’. In that process it is in the parent’s interest to give evidence and to advance their case. Inferences may be drawn from any failure to do so. It requires to be stated that this is also and manifestly in the best interests of the child subject to the proceedings
Thank you very much Hayden J. Despite these cases being more and more frequent, there is a lack of reported caselaw saying ‘no, this is wrong’ (you really have to go back to when Wall LJ was the President, and paras 24 and 37 of Doncaster MBC and Watson 2011 http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2011/B15.html for anything useful in Freeman of the Land type cases)
There seem to have been all sorts of shenanigans in this case, including the father having (by way of a trap) removing crucial documents from the Court bundle to prove a point as to how easy it was, him interrupting counsel’s cross-examination, mounting personal attacks on counsel for the LA (for which he later apologised), faking a claim that a previous Judge had not seen relevant documents because the LA were suppressing them – when it was proved that the Judge had indeed seen them.
This is the paragraph that stood out to me from the body of the judgment, however.
56.Earlier this year F pleaded guilty to an offence of outraging public decency. He received a conditional discharge. This incident involved his receiving oral sex from a prostitute in his car in the Bethnal Green area. Initially, F gave some rather ludicrous explanation suggesting that the police officer had mistaken the sexual act for discovering F “urinating into a bottle”. I note that M stood by F’s explanation. However, when I indicated a degree of scepticism at a Directions Hearing, F amended the account. In many ways I have to say that I consider the altered explanation to be equally odd. F says that he encountered the woman in Bethnal Green entirely by chance. She had recently been “beaten up” and her bruises were evident. She had cuts to her face to which she had applied a plaster. As I understand it, blood was still visible. F told me that he felt sorry for her. He explained that he had oral sex with her because he had a long-standing difficulty with erection dysfunction and he wanted to “experiment” with another woman to see if the difficulty was localised to his partner or a more general problem
Perhaps it is better to make no comment in relation to this.
The Judge observed that a lot of leeway had been given to the father, who was in person, and that the Judge had perhaps allowed the father’s tone in cross-examination of the Guardian to go too far. It is a reminder how easy it can become for a powerful personality to dominate the court room and how easily the norms are shifted.
46… Most strikingly, the conduct of F towards the professionals is, as they have described in evidence and I have witnessed in this court room, both contemptible and iniquitous. The impact on HHJ Atkinson of the campaign of harassment against her was, as I have read, alarming.
47.So too, in my assessment, has been the impact on Mr Hill, the Director of the unit. F’s modus operandi is to “research” material that might be available, either by way of general gossip or on the internet and to deploy it, when an occasion arises, against those who have crossed him. Given F’s perspective on the world, which perceives a hostile and corrupt state, it is inevitable that this is potentially a wide group.
48.In his cross examination of Mr Hill, which I address further below, F made references to his wife, his culture, his daughter. In evidence, he took Mr Hill, in detail, through the negatives of the Ofsted report, overlooking the fact that the overall assessment was a positive one. He was critical, directly and inferentially, of the building and the staff. I also note, in passing, that F was somewhat disdainful of the other residents. The manner of F’s questioning can best be described as bombastic and, on occasions, bullying.
49.With great respect to Mr Hill, who had held this post for eighteen years, it struck me that F had eroded something of his professional self-confidence. Later, when F came to give evidence himself, I asked him if he recognised that he had this impact on Mr Hill. He told me that he did recognise it. He also acknowledged that he appreciated the real distress he had caused to Judge Atkinson. In addition, towards the end of the case, F proffered an apology to Mr Barnes to whom he has been extremely discourteous and, on occasions, belittling. In what it will be seen is something of a pattern, F speculated adversely about Mr Barnes’s personal and family life. Mr Barnes, like Mr Hill, bore the onslaught with dignity and professionalism. It is necessary to state that this behaviour has taken place in front of me in a court room. I had a strong sense of F endeavouring to rein himself in. I infer that in different circumstances he would have unleashed his invective more freely. I record that F expressed some remorse for his behaviour to Mr Barnes, which I consider, on balance had, at the time it was given, some sincerity to it. What F lacked, however, was any even tentative understanding of why he behaved in such a way.
50.Tellingly, F’s cross examination of the last witness, the Guardian, was, particularly and especially towards its later stages, offensive. Even allowing for the fact that she is the professional representing F’s child and recommending an adoptive placement and might therefore expect a degree of robust questioning from a father acting in person, F’s treatment of her was overbearing, oppressive and bullying. The Guardian should not have had to endure such an onslaught. I was, on reflection, rather too slow in closing down F’s behaviour towards her. This was, I think, a reflection of the distorted dynamic that F creates.
51.It is also important to record that M rarely seeks to rein F in. Indeed, she is often voluble and highly critical of the professionals in her own right. This said, as F himself stated, the couple’s behaviour in this court has been greatly moderated from the behaviour exhibited before HHJ Atkinson. In that court F told me that M, at times, charged around shouting and upturning chairs.