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Christmas mass

I think that I’ve found the Court of Appeal case from THIS Daily Telegraph story

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/11355745/Judge-orders-father-to-take-his-children-to-church.html

 

Or rather, Rich Greenhill found it. My mistake in searching was to be looking for a case about Catholic Mass, Christmas, Catholicism or even religion. That turned up nothing, so it is more of a brute force approach.

All we really know, to find the case, is that it was an appeal from HH Judge Orrell, the report says “children” so there’s more than one child, and the original case was heard in 2009.  Oh, and the Daily Telegraph father says that his oldest son is now ten, so we know that the case is about a boy born in 2004.

So, I found one Court of Appeal decision in 2009 from HH J Orrell, but it relates to one child, and doesn’t mention Christmas mass, catholicism or religion.  I don’t think it is therefore Re B (a child) 2009.

And Rich Greenhill sent me Re F (Children) 2013, which is a refusal of permission to appeal from a judgment by HH J Orrell and it is about two children, and it does mention  that the father would be spending some of the Christmas holidays with the children – there were a huge number of complaints by father, but attendance at Christmas Mass isn’t one of them.  And the order being appealed was from 2011.

Initially, I discounted it.

But but but, the Re F judgment does describe the father as Dr F, and we DO know from the Telegraph story that the father in their case was a “51 year old psychologist”

The children were two boys, the oldest being born in January 2004, so I think that’s another tick in the box.

And the appeal hearing here is about final orders, and says that the proceedings began in 2009 so it is possible that we are talking about the same case, just at a later stage.

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/49.html&query=Orrell&method=boolean

 

I’d be reluctant to put too much store by the Daily Telegraph father and Dr F being the same person – it might instead be that they are two unrelated cases and that the Court of Appeal case with Daily Telegraph dad has not been reported.

Those are the only two  reported cases in the relevant timeframe where the Court of Appeal considered a private law case appeal against an order of HH Judge Orrell. And Re B doesn’t seem at all right because it was dealing with a 14 year old girl (who presumably would just decide for herself what she wanted to do on Christmas Eve) and not two children.

Re F  – is an appeal from HH J Orrell, relates to two boys, the oldest is the same age as the Daily Telegraph story, and is private law. And the father in both cases has a professional qualification which might entitle him to be addressed as Dr.

Even if Re F is the same one, it doesn’t help that much, but it doesn’t actually report the substantial feature of the Telegraph’s story, which is a complaint that the Judge :-

(a) Made an order that wasn’t asked for

(b) Made an order that was unfair

(c) That order was requiring a father to take his children to Christmas Mass, despite him not being Catholic.

(d) Had done so as a result of the Judge’s own religious beliefs rather than on any argument.

And the appeal as reported doesn’t tackle any of that.

 

 

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Judge orders A father to take his child to Mass

 

[“A father”, not as I’d wrongly typed originally “His father”  – a Judge who ordered his own father to take his child (the Judge) to Mass would be legally impossible and is a sort of mix between Judge John Deed (for impropriety) and Doogie Howser MD (for a Judge who is still a child)  ]

This is a story in the Daily Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/11355745/Judge-orders-father-to-take-his-children-to-church.html

 

The gist of it is that His Honour Judge Orrell ordered a father in private law proceedings that when the child is with him, he will take the child to Catholic mass.  The order applies to Christmas only. The father is not Catholic, but the mother is.

“If the children are with their father at Christmas he will undertake that they will attend the Christmas mass.”

The Daily Telegraph say that they have seen the Court transcripts (I have not) and that the Judge discussed his own Catholicism during the hearing.

 

So, a number of quick points on this.

 

1. I haven’t been able to find a judgment on this case on any of the law websites.

2. Initially, my thinking was that this was an order that had been made in the run-up to Christmas this year, hence the topicality of the story as we are now late January.

3. The article does tuck away, in the midst of its hatchet-job on His Honour Judge Orrell, that the father involved appealed this case unsuccessfully and also failed in a judicial review challenge. (I haven’t been able to find either of those reported). I’d suspect that the order in question might be a bit older than December 2014 then, to have got the appeal and judicial review heard by now.  In fact, when you read the detail of the article, the order complained of was in 2009. But it remains in force.

4. If the appeal transcript does come to light (it may have been refused permission on the papers – you don’t always get a published judgment for that) I’ll put a link up to it so that we can read it for ourselves.

5. I’ll assume that the sub-headline “Child care proceedings challenged after judge tells father he has a legal requirement to take his sons to Catholic mass” which is wrong on both the nature of the proceedings and the legal requirement issue, is the work of a sub-editor and not the author of the piece.

6. The Court does have power, if two parents are arguing about religious upbringing of a child, to make orders stipulating how the child’s faith is to be observed.  If, as the article claims, this was not a request by the mother, but of the Judge’s own motion, that would be unusual  (not unlawful, but unusual).

7. If, as the article claims, the Judge had made the decision because of his own attitude to faith and imposing his own values on the case, that would have been something that would have troubled the Court of Appeal.  Without seeing the transcript, or the Court of Appeal decision, I can’t tell you definitively whether what has claimed happened.  To be fair to this father, the fact that his appeal was unsuccessful does not NECESSARILY mean that his claim was not accurate, he might have lodged his appeal in a flawed way or not highlighted that particular aspect.

8. There is an interesting issue about whether, when deciding a child’s religious upbringing, one parent’s lack of faith is to be respected as much as the other parent’s faith. Are they on an equal footing for the law, or does the person with faith have a head-start?

 

An interesting case, I wish that we knew a little more. The appeal judgment would help enormously.

The bald order does seem harsh, for a parent who does not believe in Catholicism, but without knowing the circumstances, we don’t know, for example, whether Christmas mass was such an important issue for the mother / child, that directing that father take them was the only way of getting him to have contact on Christmas Day. It might have been a trade-off.

As someone who does not follow a faith, I’d have similar feelings to this father if a Judge imposed on me a requirement to go to church, so I have sympathy with his position and objection, and I think that this is a newsworthy story – I just wish that we had the appeal judgment to get more understanding of the factual and legal issues involved and why the decision was upheld.