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Striking ineptitude from an organisation.

 

This is a HFEA case, along the same lines as the one decided by the President discussed here:-

 

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/09/11/ivf-and-declarations-of-paternity-major-cock-ups-in-ivf-clinics/

 

I.e that because a clinic involved in artificial insemination (IVF) failed to use proper consent forms and keep proper records, the parents ended up in Court to resolve who had parental responsibility.  You may recall from that case, that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority had carried out an audit and found that about HALF of the clinics who do this work were using the wrong forms and losing records.  There was always going to be more litigation about this cock-up.

This individual case, however, did not (as the President’s 8 cases did) involve parents who were all on the same page about their intentions and who should have parental responsibility but parents who were already litigating issues about the children. So this was an added complication to already difficult proceedings.

 

In this particular case, Pauffley J was rightly very critical of the clinic involved, Herts and Essex Fertility Centre.

 

  • In the course of my separate Children Act judgment delivered on 30 November, I said I would be able to find unequivocally that F is entitled to the declaration he seeks. He is the father of C. This judgment explains my reasons for that preliminary indication. It also comments upon the actions and omissions of the Herts and Essex Fertility Centre (HEFC) for identical reasons to those described by the President in his judgment. It is both alarming and shocking that, once more, a court is confronted with an instance of such striking ineptitude from an organisation which is subject to statutory regulation and monitored by a statutory regulator namely the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

We’ll come onto it in detail later, but because the Clinic refused to comply with Court orders, the Court had to make the orders again, but with a penal notice attached. It is pretty unusual for a Court to need to do that against an organisation (as opposed to say a lay person)

 

 

F v M and Others 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/3601.html

 

When the parties contacted the clinic to ask for the records, and even when Court orders were sent, the Clinic was unresponsive – my reading is that the requests were processed by someone who went into “someone is trying to sue us for something, give them nothing” mode.  (which is not even the way it actually works with a personal injury or negligence claim, where disclosure is part of a pre-action protocol). As it turned out, the Clinic’s resistance to assist and comply with Court orders not only made the litigation more protracted and costly, but they ended up having to offer to pay the costs anyway.

Also, seeing the lawyers involved in the case in the headnote, boy did this clinic mess with the wrong people…

 

 

  • The second noteworthy matter surrounds HEFC’s litigation conduct which has been wholly extraordinary. Notwithstanding both parents’ written authorisations and ready agreement to the disclosure of material from HEFC, the process has been fraught and, at best, piecemeal. There would seem to have been a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose for which disclosure of records was sought.
  • In early May, only 20 or so pages of medical records were made available. Had there been full and proper disclosure at that stage, the eventual shape of the litigation could have been very different. Again and again, letters were written by M’s and F’s Solicitors. In late May, HEFC was strongly recommended to attend the first court hearing. In response, the Clinic’s finance manager stated that it was not accepted that “HFEC had failed to comply with the necessary procedures;” and the suggestion of attending the hearing was declined.
  • On 29 May an order was made joining HEFC as a party and directing it to file any evidence upon which it intended to rely. Two months later, on 28 July, in the absence of any engagement by the Clinic, F’s Solicitors wrote a lengthy and informative letter, drawing attention to the 7 cases being heard by the President, seeking agreement to fund the father’s legal costs, reiterating the disclosure requests and giving information about the next court hearing.
  • On 10 August, the Clinic’s finance manager emailed F’s Solicitors saying, “to confirm, we will not intervene nor will we be attending the hearing.”
  • On 14 August, I made an order directing HEFC to disclose all and any medical notes relating to M and F’s treatment as well as all correspondence (including emails and other communications) with M and F. I also directed the Clinic to file and serve detailed statements from the Person Responsible and the Medical Director. The HEFC was directed to attend the next hearing on 22 October.
  • On 4 September two statements were provided, one from the Person Responsible, the other from the Medical Director. The covering email from the finance manager indicated that the Clinic would not be in attendance at the next hearing as “this is a Family Law matter.”
  • I cannot begin to understand how such a misapprehension arose as to the proper role for the Clinic in these proceedings particularly given the unambiguous correspondence from the parties’ Solicitors supported as it was by the text of several court orders.
  • On 20 October (about a month after F’s Solicitors had drawn the Clinic’s attention to the President’s HFEA 2008 judgment), an email was sent to the Clinic’s finance manager reminding her that HEFC was required to attend the hearing on 22 October. The response was that the Clinic would not be attending.
  • It was therefore necessary, on 22 October, to make an order with a penal notice attached so as to ensure the Clinic’s compliance with directions. I also listed a hearing to determine the Clinic’s liability for the parties’ reasonable costs. Once again, an order was made that the Clinic should attend the next hearing.
  • On 4 November, Russell-Cooke LLP was instructed by the Clinic. Seemingly that was the point at which the Clinic appreciated the need for assistance from lawyers. As Mr Powell explained during his final submissions, the Clinic’s first point of contact (when faced with requests for information) had been the insurers. Apparently, though this is difficult to understand given the explicit nature of incoming correspondence, the Clinic had not appreciated the gravity of the situation.
  • There was then inter-solicitor correspondence resulting in further disclosure on 10 November. For the first time, critically important laboratory records were revealed showing affirmative ticks by the WP and PP boxes on forms. Two further and important tranches of documents were disclosed on 19 and 20 November just a very few days before the final hearing listed on 24 November.
  • The detail of the Clinic’s litigation conduct is both important and profoundly disappointing set against the framework of the dispute between these parents. The levels of conflict have remained at the highest level throughout. M and F are bitter, resentful and mistrustful of each other. M’s position, in all probability, became ever more entrenched as the result of the Clinic’s lack of engagement and failure to disclose early.
  • The Clinic’s bewildering behaviour has undoubtedly added to a situation of enormous tension in circumstances which were already intensely fraught. It would have assisted greatly if the Clinic had responded to requests for information in a timely and cooperative fashion. Seldom is it necessary to make orders backed with a penal notice against organisations whose aims include a desire to serve the public and to a high standard. It was altogether necessary here.
  • It should also be observed that even by the very end of the hearing, there had been no attempt on the part of the Clinic to engage directly with either M or F. Beyond what had been said formally within the proceedings there has been no correspondence and no apology on the part of anyone at HEFC. That is quite obviously a profoundly shocking state of affairs. Neither parent has had any offer of help, support or explanation for the situation in which they have been entangled. They have been left completely on their own with no ability to understand the reasons for what went so badly wrong.
  • On behalf of the Clinic, Mr Powell accepts that no words would do justice to the emotional distress caused to M, F and their family members. He did not seek to defend the Clinic’s actions; and accepts the criticisms levelled. The Medical Director’s unreserved apology, said Mr Powell, although late is nonetheless candid. The Medical Director accepts that the Clinic’s litigation conduct was wholly unsatisfactory and has prolonged the parents’ distress. He intends to write directly to them apologising on behalf of HEFC and would welcome the opportunity to meet each parent to provide an apology in person and answer their questions.
  • Mr Powell indicates that lessons have been learned and contrition on behalf of the Clinic is genuine. It is a good indication of the HEFC’s remorse that it has undertaken to pay the parties’ costs as they relate to the declaration of parentage proceedings.

 

 

On the fundamental issue, whether the proper consents had been recorded about the treatment and who was to be considered as legal parents for any child produced by the treatment, the Judge had this to say:-

 

 

  • Without descending into more of the detail, I am entirely satisfied of the following – (1) that M and F did sign WP and PP forms prior to the commencement of treatment; (2) that the forms as well as the internal consent forms were signed at the treatment information appointment (as the checklist confirms); (3) that the WP and PP forms have subsequently been mislaid or lost; (4) that M and F received appropriate counselling prior to treatment in relation to the consequences of using donor sperm; (5) that notwithstanding the lost forms the clinic acted within the terms of its licence; and accordingly (6) F is C’s father.
  • Turning from the specifics relating to parentage, there are a number of associated matters which require comment. The first is as to the bemusing and seemingly unsatisfactory response of HEFC to the Legal Parenthood Audit initiated at the request of the HFEA on 10 February 2014 following the judgment of Cobb J AB v CD and the Z Fertility Clinic [2013] EWHC 1418 (Fam).
  • On 1 September 2014, the HFEA wrote to all clinics to inform them of the outcome of the Audit – namely that “nearly half of all clinics that have responded reported anomalies with their legal parenthood consent.” The letter expressly informed clinics – “if you have any doubt about the validity of legal parenthood you should seek your own legal advice. You should also inform the affected patients and their partners.”
  • The underlying message was clear. Clinics should have been supporting and assisting parents. They have an obligation to be open and transparent – most particularly with those whose parenthood was potentially disturbed by administrative incompetence. The parents were (and are) the individuals in most need of advice and assistance; they are entitled to and should have been treated with respect and proper concern. In this instance, M and F were left completely on their own without assistance of any kind from HEFC.
  • The medical files for these parents should have been (but were not) included in the Legal Parenthood Audit which was to be completed over a period of three months. The omission has been reported to the HFEA. It is perplexing to say the least that this couple’s files were missed when account is taken of the chronology of the mother’s telephone calls (from late March / early April 2015) seeking information about the consent forms as well as initial ‘phone calls followed then by a formal letter from M’s then Solicitors requiring information.
  • At the instigation of the Chief Inspector of the HFEA an investigation is about to begin to discover the reasons for the error. There will be a ‘Root Cause Analysis’ undertaken by an independent consultancy for UK regulated organisations so as to identify what went wrong. The investigation will also seek to discover whether the HEFC complied with the HFEA’s request to sample or review files. Importantly, it will examine how the WP and PP forms were mislaid or lost. It is said on behalf of HEFC that the investigation will be thorough and comprehensive.
  • The findings of the independent consultancy will be reported to the HFEA so that decisions may be made about what action should be taken. The medical director of HEFC assures the court that he is committed to “getting to the bottom of what happened, to taking all remedial action and to working with the HFEA to ensure that the circumstances which gave rise to this case can never happen again.”
  • The HEFC has taken other steps including the installation of ‘Meditex,’ a new Fertility Database which will require the scanning in of Forms WP and PP enabling immediate retention and availability for inspection. The database is comprehensive, internationally recognised and used by other leading clinics across Europe.

 

It really does seem likely that there will be many more of these cases. I’d suggest that hospitals stop putting Court orders from family Courts in the “Go Screw Yourselves”* section of the in-trays.

 

(*That wasn’t actually intended to be an artificial insemination joke when I first wrote it, but hey, I’m not one to snub serendipity when it comes a’knocking)

 

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Oh what a tangled web we weave

 

I do love it when I learn something new.

This is a case decided by a Circuit Judge, Her Honour Judge Taylor, in a case where a woman had lied to a man as to whether he was the biological father of her child.  He was then suing her for deceit.

[I confess my ignorance, I didn’t know that you could sue someone for deceit. Helpfully, HH Judge Taylor sets out all of the relevant law, so now I not only know that the concept exists, but what you need to prove]

X v Y 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/Misc/2015/B10.html

 

I can already hear, as I type this, the sound of readers ears pricking up at the idea of being able to sue for deceit.  [We have discussed before that you can’t sue for defamation for anything that someone says in Court or puts in a Court statement, and that a criminal prosecution for perjury is (a) difficult, and (b) not the decision of the victim, but of the Director of Public Prosecutions. So is suing for deceit a remedy? We shall see]

The law and deceit

45 Following the cases of P v B [2001] 1 FLR 1041 and A v B [2007] EWHC 1248 QB, followed in Rodwell v Rodwell [2011], it is clear that the cause of action in deceit may arise in cases such as this in a domestic context.

46 In A v B at para.43 Blofeld J set out the ingredients of deceit.

(1) a representation by words of conduct.  [Suess note, I think that is a typo and it should be ‘or’ conduct. meaning that you could give rise to a deceit action by semaphore, or more realistically that when asked a direct question the person nodded, shook their head, or put their thumbs up or some obvious gesture of that kind…]

(2) Secondly, that representation must be untrue to the knowledge of the maker at the time the representation was made.

(3) Thirdly, the maker must make the representation by fraud, either deliberately or recklessly, in the sense that he or she could not care whether the representation was true or not.

(4) Fourthly, the representation must be made with the intention that it should be acted upon by the claimant.

(5) Fifthly, it must be proved the claimant acted upon the fraudulent misrepresentation and therefore suffered damage.

 

In English

 

(1) that the other person said something

(2) that when they said it, they knew it wasn’t true

(3) that there was either intention, or recklessness that you might believe it

(4) That  they MEANT you to do something as a result of believing it, and that you acted on what the person said  (i.e you didn’t just believe it, that belief caused you to do something about it)

(5) That those actions caused you loss or harm

 

So, for the immediate question on your lips “If a social worker tells lies about me, can I sue them for deceit?”  I think that the fourth ingredient is the problematic one.  In order to sue for deceit, you need to show that not only was there a lie, but that you believed it. And that you did something as a result of believing it. If you never believed the lie, then you weren’t deceived.

You can only sue for deceit if the person successfully deceived you.  A lie is different to a deceit – telling a lie that you didn’t believe isn’t a deceit, it is an unsuccessful attempt to deceive.

[It might be possible to construct such a case – that the social worker told a lie about mum, dad believed it, dad did something as a result, and dad suffered loss.  Or I suppose the section 20 style case where a parent is told that it will just be for a few days and having signed the agreement never gets the child back]

 

In this particular case, the couple had made use of a fertility clinic. The man had had a vasectomy, but had taken the precaution of having his sperm frozen before the procedure. He had been told by the woman that she, with his consent, had used his sperm to conceive a child through the fertility clinic.  In fact, she had not. The sperm used had been another mans. DNA testing later proved that the child was not his.  The man had made maintenance payments to the woman for this child.

The woman’s case was that she had taken two samples to the clinic, one from the man and one from another person and that she had not known which sample was used – so she had not been honest with the man that there was a possibility that the child was not his, but had not lied to him because she did not know that he definitely was not the father.

 

The Judge held that the ingredients for a claim of deceit were all made out.

 

84. On the facts of this case where I have found there has been clear deceit and fraud in relation to the agreement, in my judgment it is right that the court order repayment of these sums which are not for the benefit of Z. The sum claimed in respect of these payments for maintenance to Y is £22,845 plus interest which has been calculated to date at £2,476 making a total of £25,321.

  1. Consequently, the sums that I award are the sum of £10,000 of general damages plus £4,000 in respect of the loss of earning capacity and the £25,321 inclusive of interest in relation to the maintenance of the property.

 

 

 

 

One flew over the Cuckold’s nest

The peculiar set of facts of Re M 2013, which hinged on whether a child had been conceived by artificial insemination, or in the traditional way, and if the former, whether the husband of the mother had consented.  Also, we touch on the issue of anonymity. 

The case is here

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2013/1901.html

We have three players – M, who is the mother of the child, F who provided the gametes for the child’s conception, and H, the husband of the mother.  It is fairly to establish that M  is the child’s legal mother, but establishing who is the child’s legal father is a bit more difficult.

In essence, F was a man who was a sperm donor on a regular basis. Sometimes he did this by means of artificial insemination (AI), and sometimes by natural intercourse (NI).  It was factually agreed that F had been contacted by M and asked to assist with her fertility issue, and that some episodes of NI took place. The issues between the parties were these :-

1.       Was the event which led to the conception of the child, AI or NI ?

2.       Was the Husband in agreement with this?

Why is that relevant? The Court are clearly about to plunge into very delicate and sensitive matters and things are liable to get (excuse the phrase in this context) sticky.

Well, it is because when the Government decided to legislate and regulate the whole business of insemination done outside of the confines of a relationship or even one night stand, they brought into being the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008  (HFEA from now on)

Section 35 of that Act, provides (in very clinical language) that if a woman is married, her husband shall be the legal father of a child produced by artificial insemination with another man’s gametes PROVIDED that he consented to that insemination taking place.

If he did not consent, he is not the child’s legal father. And the donor of the gametes would only be the child’s legal father if he had provided the mother with a notice saying that he consents to be treated as the father of the child AND M has provided him with a notice that she agrees to that.  So, a child conceived by AI without the consent of the Husband  (H) or biological donor of the gametes (F) agreeing to be treated as the Father would have no legal father.

With me so far?

IF the child was conceived by NI, then the male participant would be the child’s legal father (but would not automatically acquire parental responsibility, unless he was registered on the birth certificate)

In this case, which was heard by Mr Justice Peter Jackson – who is rapidly becoming the “go-to” guy on difficult AI cases, the Mother was claiming that the conception had taken place as a result of NI, and that therefore F was the biological AND legal father. She was also seeking orders for financial support for the child from F, under Schedule One of the Children Act 1989.

It would be fair to say that the role of the Court became less one of determining which of F or M was telling the truth, but which of them, after sifting through the multiple lies that each had told, was the more credible in their overall account.  Given that F said the conception was by AI, and M said by NI, one of them must have been telling the truth about the circumstances, and it was, the Judge said, unfortunate that each of them had told so many lies in the proceedings.

These are the lies the Court found that M had told. (The names that I give are names that are within the anonymised transcript, and do not relate to the real names of M, F or H, or the child)

 

·  Examples of Ms M’s deceptions are these:

(1) Her opening e-mail to Mr F stated that she was healthy (she has a medical condition) and that Mr H was excited about donor insemination (he was against it but she hoped to bring him round).

(2) She told Mr F that she had miscarried his child, when she had in fact had a termination.

(3) Her ‘misdirected’ email to a girlfriend, deliberately sent to Mr F, is the work of a fluent fabricator.

 

 (4) Her use of the ‘Andy Hitchings’ name and e-mail account shows a capacity for determined and malevolent action to achieve her ends, and also demonstrates that she will use an alias when it suits her.

(5) I find that she wrote those ‘Andy Hitchings’ emails that she denies writing. Her criterion for accepting or denying authorship was no more than an assessment of the damage that the truth would do to her case.

(6) I find that she probably wrote the ‘Nicole White’ and ‘Edward Mason’ e-mails for the reasons given in Mr F’s opening submissions. She has had two years to prove that these people exist in the face of Mr F’s allegation that they do not, but she has made no attempt to do so.

(7) If I am wrong about point (6), the only plausible alternative is that Ms M conspired with one or more other persons unknown to pursue her campaign against Mr F.

(8) Ms M’s reason for keeping a transcribed log of text messages was that it was as a record for the child. This is unconvincing; a more likely explanation is that she kept the information as a form of insurance.

·  I found Ms M to be an unimpressive witness in relation to the above matters and to show no sign of discomfort when caught in an obvious lie. She freely stated that she is motivated by her own need for Mr F to be punished.

 

 

And then these are the lies that F told

·  Examples of Mr F’s deceptions are these:

(1) His calculating betrayal of his girlfriends, to whom he made promises that he was no longer engaging in sperm donation, and his unabashed dishonesty in concealing his overall activities from recipients with whom he entered into relationships.

(2) His casual untruthfulness on his website profiles about the number of children that he had fathered, lies that would only work to his benefit by disguising a level of hyperactivity that might have deterred responsible approaches.

(3) His deliberately misleading first statement, in which he trumpets the rules of the website as being ‘AI-only’ in an effort to create the impression that this was the case here, when in fact he had been engaging in and advertising sexual activity through the website for years.

(4) His untruthful evidence in these proceedings and to the CSA that he had not had sexual intercourse with Ms M until December 2010 or January 2011, when on his own case it occurred in October 2010.

(5) His gratuitously inaccurate statement that sexual intercourse with Ms M began ‘at her instigation’.

(6) His denial of certain text messages to and from Ms M, taking the same selective tactical approach as she has done.

·  As to the last matter, the log of text messages was produced by Ms M in an unsatisfactory form (allegedly transcribed in edited form from notes that no longer exist of texts that have been ‘lost’). Having exercised due caution in the light of Ms M’s general dishonesty, I nevertheless find that the record can be viewed as a reasonably reliable journal of this form of communication between the couple. The messages have the spontaneous and often inconsequential flavour of real life, are congruent with the content of the contemporaneous emails, and are in my view beyond even Ms M’s powers of fabrication. Moreover, had she wanted to invent evidence, she would probably have inserted some direct and unambiguous reference to sexual activity, but there is none. Many texts are accepted by Mr F, but only where they do him no damage.

·  Mr F’s evidence was clearly given, but he had clearly taken the strategic decision to tell the truth where possible and to lie where necessary. He at least conveyed some impression that he would have been more comfortable telling the truth if circumstances had not prevented it.

 

 

The Judge then had to weigh up, which of them on balance was telling the truth on the central issue of conception, taking into account that the burden of proof was upon M as the applicant

 

·  On the central question of the manner of this child’s conception, I have reached the clear conclusion that Ms M’s evidence is greatly to be preferred to that of Mr F. My reasons are these:

(1) Her account of the sexual activity is detailed and has been consistently maintained. It was unshaken during her evidence.

(2) As a straw in the wind, her answer to an unexpected question about what happened to the AI equipment after the first meeting (which was that she kept bringing but not using it) had the ring of truth.

(3) Allowing for the difficulty faced by any witness in breathing life into a denial, Mr F’s evidence on the issue lacked any real conviction.

(4) His new-found certainty that the first occasion of sex was in late October is inconsistent with his previous accounts and best explained by his having decided to sail as close to the wind as he could in terms of dates.

(5) If the first occasion of sex occurred in October it would have been at one address: if it was in December or January, it would have been at another, Mr F having moved in the meantime. A mistake about dates might be explained: a mistake about venue cannot be accounted for so easily.

(6) My findings about Mr F’s unreliability as a witness are of course relevant.

(7) While of no great importance, it would be a curiosity that the child was conceived by AI at a meeting that was the immediate predecessor of his parents’ very first sexual activity.

(8) The coy and flirtatious tone of their emails and texts from the start suggests that the couple’s relationship had swiftly progressed far beyond AI. The approach seems to have been to communicate in way that was not explicit, chiming with the wish to keep the affair hidden from their partners. Of interest, the tone of the texts and emails is no different before and after October 2010.

(9) I attach no real significance to the use of the term ‘donor’ by either parent when it is clear that this was used interchangeably in their minds for AI and NI. As Mr F put it, ‘I call it donation by sex or receptacle’.

(10) I reject Mr F’s case that a simple friendship and closeness developed between himself and Ms M arising from the intimate nature of AI. The sheer amount of time the couple spent together in a variety of private places from April 2010 onwards is a strong indicator that they were meeting for more than repeated AI.

(11) Mr H believed from an early stage that his wife was having an affair, and I believe that he had good grounds for thinking so.

(12) On the evidence, Mr F did not commonly engage in extended continuous asexual relationships with the women he met through the website. He has an unmistakable track record of inveigling or encouraging recipients into engaging in sexual activity with him from the very first meeting. Ms M’s account of Mr F making a pass at her during the first meeting is consistent with descriptions given by others. Of note, Mr F accepted that he had given her the option of AI or NI within minutes of their first meeting, which was highly inappropriate when she was a stranger who had come for AI.

(13) I accept that Mr F first became involved in licensed donation altruistically and even now, I do not discount a residual element of altruism in his make-up or forget that there are many much-wanted children alive today as a result of his efforts. However, I am clear that in relation to his website activity his mainspring has been to meet his own needs, at least at a sexual level. This is seen by his behaviour in 2007, when he advertised himself in graphic terms as willing to participate in a ‘breeding party’, i.e. a male-dominated orgy designed to get a woman pregnant, though there is no suggestion that he actually took part in such activity. Likewise, he referred in evidence to an occasion when he engaged in sexual activity with both members of a lesbian pair who had approached him via the website.

(14) The fact that Mr F is bound in his professional life by a clear code of ethics makes the risks he was taking the more surprising. His prolific sexual activity with recipients amounted to a brazen flouting of the rules of the website, such as they were. In one relevant period of 2-3 months alone, he was on his own account having sex with three women and providing AI to two others. Most of these contacts had to be kept secret from the other women involved. The sheer logistical challenge alongside his professional life will have been a burden that he would have been likely to have laid down if he had not been driven on by some degree of compulsion. He even kept up and refreshed a posting on a different website, from which he never received any custom over a period of years, and despite the volume of applications the main website was reliably producing.

(15) I reject Mr F’s case that Ms M main motivation is financial, but accept that much of her behaviour is explained by a desire to damage him in any way she can as a way of getting redress for his deeds and his lies.

 

Thus finding that F was the biological and legal parent of the child, the child having been conceived by natural intercourse.

 

Where things get really rich, was the application for costs

Ms M seeks an order that Mr F should pay her costs, while Mr H seeks an order that Mr F should pay his costs on an indemnity basis. Mr H’s costs, it will be recalled, come to £13,000 and Ms M’s to £81,000, of which £61,000 is publicly funded.

 

Well, I see some merit in H asking for it, but after those findings about the pack of lies that M told, asking for a costs order required some bravery. It wasn’t successful.

The issue of anonymity was touched upon, and it is relevant in view of the current debate and the last blog piece that I wrote. Underlining here is mine.

·  Prohibited steps application Mr F seeks an order in these terms:

1. No party may, without the permission of the court, disclose to any person other than their respective legal advisors any of the evidence, oral or written, which has been adduced during these proceedings.

2. No party may disclose to any person other than their respective legal advisors, close friends and family members, or medical professionals treating either themselves or the child any information relating to the circumstances of the conception of the child.

3. For the avoidance of doubt, paragraphs 1 and 2 of this order prohibit disclosure of any information covered by those paragraphs in any of the following ways:

a. By email to any person other than those included in paragraph 1 of this order;

b. By posting the information on any website or internet forum;

c. By publishing the information via Twitter, Facebook or any other social media;

d. By disclosing any of the information to any representative of the Press.

4. Other than specifically provided for in this order, any disclosure which would otherwise have been permitted by Family Procedure Rules 2010, r.12.73 or 12.75 is prohibited unless the party wishing to make such disclosure has obtained the permission of the court.

·  Mr F seeks this order to prevent what is described as prurient interest in the circumstances of the child’s conception. He points to the findings about Ms M’s past behaviour in relation to third parties as heightening this risk. He is anxious to protect his personal position, that of the child and that of third parties, including other children fathered by him. He fears that the financial proceedings may prompt Ms M to renew her public campaign against him.

·  Ms M, who initially appeared attracted by the idea of such an order, now opposes the application. She considers that she should be free to discuss such information or desist from doing so as she sees fit in so far as is otherwise permitted by law.

·  FPR 2010 r.12.73 and r.12.75 protect information arising from the proceedings, either by way of written or oral evidence, or by description of what occurred in court, but at the same time permit disclosure of information relating to the proceedings in defined circumstances, which do not include communication to the public at large. However, in the absence of a specific order, there is nothing to prevent anyone talking privately or publicly about matters that do not originate from within the proceedings: the mere fact that information arising independent of the proceedings is then referred to within the proceedings does not mean that it cannot continue to be spoken of.

·  In this case, Mr F applies for greater restrictions than those imposed by the rules. In balancing the interests that arise under Articles 8 and 10, I am clear that this is not a case in which it would be appropriate for the court to make an order of this kind. Looking at the matter from the point of view of the child, I doubt that the sort of transient publicity that might follow either of the parties speaking publicly would have any real effect on his welfare or of other children. This is not an encouragement to anyone, and in particular Ms M, to go to the press. On the contrary, all parties would no doubt be wise to desist from washing dirty linen in public, but that is a matter for them, and not for the court to regulate in the circumstances of this case. I am not influenced by Ms M’s change of stance: had the parties been united in the application, I would still have refused it.

 

And thus the judgment is published, with names anonymised, with the standard rubric (see the last blog post) about anyone wishing to make use of the judgment having to do so on the basis that no information leading to the identification of the parties will be provided.

 

I know that some of my readers, and some of the media, and population at large, take the view that anonymising the judgments is a step too far, and that the names should just be made public save for the most drastic of circumstances.

 

But imagine, if you will, that this judgment, which is up online and can be viewed by anyone who looks for it, named the child, F, M and H, giving their real names.  Anyone in the child’s social circle could read it now or in the future, and know the whole grisly story of the conception and the lies , manipulation and deception that both of his biological parents were involved in. And could tell the child that , or tease or bully the child with that information. Imagine you are the child, and ten years hence you type your name into Google, and THIS judgment is what comes up.  And you see your mother’s name, and the name of her husband, who you thought was your father?

 

This is of course, nowhere near the worst things that are contained within family court judgments; and it is for that reason that I would support publication of anonymised judgments (hopefully with some clear guidance on what can or can’t be done with them) but not for the routine naming of those involved.

cuckoo