RSS Feed

Tag Archives: tipstaff

Wrongful arrest and detention under a location order

The High Court address a situation in which a woman was unlawfully removed from a plane and arrested as a result of misunderstanding about a location order.

 

Taukacs v Taukaca 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/2365.html

 

In this case, the Court had made a location order, that would require the production of the child’s passport, revealing information about his location and preventing him from being removed from the country whilst the Court make decisions about the child’s longer term future.

 

This was served on local police, who went to mother’s home. She provided them with the child’s passport and gave them information. Very specifically, she told them that she had a flight booked for a holiday to Spain, the child would not be going, and asked if she could still go. She was told that yes, the order prevented the child leaving the UK but not her.  To double-check, she visited the local police station to ask the same question and was given the same answer.   What she was told was quite right.

 

However, when she got on the plane, this happened

  1. Having very creditably taken those steps, the mother must have gone with some confidence last Saturday to Birmingham International Airport with her friends in order to fly on Saturday evening to Palma in Spain. She actually boarded the aircraft, but, after she had boarded and before the aircraft took off, she was removed from it. I will now take up the narrative by reading from the short witness statement dated 2nd August 2015 made by a police constable of the West Midlands Police currently stationed at Birmingham Airport Again, it would not be fair in a public judgment to name that police constable. She says:

    “On Saturday, 1st August 2015, I saw a woman in the front office area of the police station at Birmingham Airport who I now know to be Ludmila Taukaca. I was made aware by officers that Taukaca had been removed from a Monarch flight departing to Palma, Spain, this was due to her breaching a High Court order which stated that she was not to leave the United Kingdom and that she had to surrender her passport. Taukaca only spoke Latvian and Russian, so in order to communicate with her I used Google translator on my personal mobile telephone. At 23.00 hours I informed her that she was under arrest for breaching the court order. Language Line was then contacted and the facts of arrest explained to her. Taukaca was then transported to Solihull police station where the facts were related to the custody officer and her detention authorised. I had no further dealings with Taukaca.”

  2. Pausing there, it seems to follow from that that this lady was arrested and then detained in custody for two reasons. First, that she had not surrendered her passport. Second, that she was attempting to leave the United Kingdom. The police at the airport and later at Solihull police station took the view that both of these facts were breaches of the order. The police at her home, and later at West Bromwich police station, had both expressly told her that she could travel and was not required to surrender her passport. Essentially, following that, Mrs Taukaca has been held in custody ever since, as I have said, and was brought here by escorts this afternoon. She was held for a time in the cells here at the Royal Courts of Justice.
  3. One has only to consider those facts to appreciate that this matter has what I would regard as scandalous elements. This lady did produce her own passport to the police. They looked at it, but did not take it with them and left it with her. This lady did tell the police that she had a booked holiday to Spain a few days later and asked whether she could lawfully go. The police told her that she could. This lady took the extra trouble and precaution, which few people might have done, of going to a police station on Friday, together with her friend, to check whether she could lawfully travel to Spain. She was told that she could. She got as far as being on the aircraft when she was removed. That of itself must have been a degrading and humiliating experience and, probably, very frightening for her; and she has now suffered being detained in custody, as I have said, for something of the order of now 42 hours and two nights, and of course missed her holiday.

 

 

She was held in the cells for about 42 hours before the case came before Holman J and it was appreciated that she ought never to have been arrested.

 

The problem, Holman J identified, was with the standard pro forma order,  that the Tipstaff circulates to the police force.

The problem which this case throws up is the language of the standard form location order. Paragraph 2 of the order in this case, which is in standard form, reads as follows:

“The respondent [viz in this case Mrs Taukaca] and/or any other person served with this order must each hand over to the Tipstaff (for safekeeping until the court makes a further order) as many of the following documents as are in his or her possession or control:-

(a) every passport relating to the child, including an adult’s passport by which the child is also permitted to travel, and every identity card, ticket, travel warrant or other document which would enable the child to leave England and Wales; and

(b) every passport relating to the respondent and every identity card, ticket, travel warrant or other document which would enable the defendant to leave England and Wales.”

 

I have to say that I myself would read (b) in the same way that the officer at the airport read it, that the mother had to surrender any travel document that would allow her to leave England, she had clearly got such items in order to get through airport security, ergo she was in breach of the order. I can quite see why the officer at the airport read it in that way.   The problem is the ambiguous use of “defendant” in that standard order – who can it possibly mean other than the mother?

 

Pausing there, the first source of ambiguity leaps off the page of that part of the prescribed standard form order, although I have to say that it is not an ambiguity that I, myself, have ever spotted or noticed before. The heading of the order describes, in this case Ludmila Taukaca, as “respondent”. The opening words of paragraph 2 require “the respondent” to hand over the specified documents, but, when one gets into the detail of sub-paragraph (b), it will be noticed that it meanders between a reference to “the respondent” and a reference to “the defendant”. So far as I am aware, at any rate in this particular version of this order, it is only within paragraph 2(b) that there is any reference to the words “the defendant”. But at all events, what the person designated as “the respondent”, namely in this case Ludmila Taukaca, had to hand over was any passport relating to herself “which would enable the defendant to leave England and Wales”. It leaves completely unspecified who is meant or intended by the words “the defendant”, but a police officer might reasonably suppose that the reference to “the defendant” was a reference to somebody other than “the respondent” and, perhaps, that it was some further reference to the child concerned.

 

 

In this case, the police who first attended asked to see the mother’s passport and she showed it to them, but they did not ask her to hand it over, as their reading of the order was that they were to take any documents that would prevent the child from being taken abroad.

 

The fact that two different sets of police officers read the order entirely differently is more the fault of the order than the police.

  1. Assuming, however, that paragraph 2(b) did not contain that ambiguity, then it is a clear direction to hand over to the Tipstaff, or in a case like this to the police officer executing the order, every passport, etc., “relating to the respondent”. If and when the police officers last Wednesday looked at Mrs Taukaca’s own passport, which she had handed to them, but then placed it back on the table and left it with her, when they left her home, it was the officers who were failing to understand or failing to discharge their duty under this order. It was not Mrs Ludmila Taukaca, who, it will be remembered, cannot speak or read English.
  2. One then reads on to paragraph 4 of the order. That provides as follows:

    “The respondent and/or any other person served with this order must not knowingly cause or permit the child:-

    (a) to be present overnight at any place other than the place where the child was staying at the time of service of this order; or

    (b) to be removed from the jurisdiction of England and Wales.”

  3. So far as paragraph 4(a) was concerned, this particular child, M, was staying, at the time when the order was served upon the mother in Smethwick, at the address of his brother in Northamptonshire. As I understand it, M has continued to stay at the address of his brother in Northamptonshire seamlessly between last Wednesday and now, so the mother has not been, and is not, in breach in any way whatsoever of paragraph 4(a).
  4. Quite clearly, the whole of paragraph 4 is directed to the whereabouts of “the child” concerned, and a prohibition on causing or permitting the child concerned to be removed from the jurisdiction of England and Wales. Here is the ambiguity and tension in this standard form of order which seems to me to have led to what I have described as a scandalous situation in the present case.
  5. Paragraph 2(b) does require the handing over of passports and similar documents “relating to the respondent”. If they are handed over, then the effect and intention would be to prevent the respondent from travelling out of England and Wales. I have, however, already pointed out ambiguities within paragraph 2(b). The focus of paragraph 4 is a clear and express embargo on removing the child from England and Wales, but neither paragraph 4 nor any other part of the order expressly prohibits the respondent parent from leaving England and Wales. Indeed, it may require very careful consideration whether there should be any restriction on the parent, as an individual and free person, from leaving England and Wales, provided only that the child, who is the subject of the application, is not able to leave England and Wales.
  6. At all events, it seems to me that the way that the police officers, who attended last Wednesday, interpreted this order was that it required them to remove the child’s passport, which they did, and contained an embargo upon the child leaving England and Wales, but no embargo upon the mother herself leaving England and Wales. So it was that, as the mother herself describes, the police said to her words to the effect that, “Yes, you can travel to Spain. It is nothing to do with you, but you cannot take your son abroad.” The same ambiguity seems to have influenced the police officer whom the mother saw and from whom she received advice and reassurance when she attended at West Bromwich police station on Friday.
  7. It seems, therefore, that, as a result of ambiguities in a standard form of order, which judges of this Division have been making now for many years, a terrible injustice was done to this lady. I have explained all this at some length in this public judgment. I have ordered that a transcript of this judgment must be made as a matter of extreme urgency. I personally am last sitting on Wednesday of this week before I go for several weeks of holiday. I intend to ensure that the official approved transcript of this judgment is placed upon the BAILII website before I go. It must be very urgently drawn to the attention of the President of the Family Division. It must, of course, be very urgently and seriously considered by the Tipstaff. It seems to me vital that very urgent steps indeed are taken to clarify and improve the wording of this standard form of order so as to avoid that any other person suffers the injustice and indignity and loss of freedom which this lady has suffered.

 

 

 

  1. I wish to stress very clearly indeed that, so far as I am concerned, Mrs Taukaca has not in any way whatsoever broken any court order. This is not a situation in which she has “purged her contempt”. Rather, she was never in contempt of court at all. She should never have been arrested, still less, detained, and I order her immediate release, repeating as I do a very sincere and unreserved apology on behalf of the legal system. But I wish to stress also that I do not intend in anything that I have said any criticism whatsoever of any of the police officers who were engaged in this case. Frankly, the fault lies with the language of the order and for that, ultimately, the judges must take responsibility.

 

 

It is remarkable that a standard form of order, that has been used for around four years, and has been regularly seen by the very brightest High Court Judges and counsel who are capable of dealing with international law cases (who tend to be bright people) has had these ambiguities within it for all that time.

 

And as a result, this lady has had the indignity of being removed from a plane and arrested, missed her holiday, and spent 42 hours in a cell.  As a result of a poorly drafted clause in a standard order.  Where’s Christopher Booker when you need him?

 

The transcript at the end makes a very sad case even sadder – it was really clear that this woman had no possessions, them having been confiscated, and absolutely no idea how to get across London to Euston station so that she could go home to Smethwick.  You don’t often read Court transcripts that make you want to give someone a hug  (and I have delivered precisely six hugs* in my entire life to people I wasn’t in relationships with, so I’m no hugger ) but this one did.

 

[*Half of those were a mistake, with the benefit of hindsight.  I saw the trailer for the film “The Martian” last weekend, where Matt Damon gets accidentally stranded on Mars and will be entirely alone for years until a rescue mission comes and I believe that I actually sighed wistfully / with jealousy]

What’s app Doc Crippen?

 

This is going to be a bit of a meander, I’m afraid.

What’s App, if you don’t know, is a communication device – it basically allows a subscriber to send many many messages to other users for a small annual fee (much much cheaper than text messaging). It has become very popular very fast, and as is traditional, Facebook has now swooped in to buy it for an obscene amount of money (even though the money they are willing to pay to own it would not be recouped on the current business model until the year 2525).  

The case of London Borough of Tower Hamlets v Alli and Others  

 http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/845.html&query=whatsapp&method=boolean

turns on the evidence having been obtained through Whatsapp.

That in turn, reminded me of the role that Dr Crippen played in the development of wireless telegraphy, hence the meander.

Marconi was the driving force behind the popularity of wireless telegraphy, although many said that his role in inventing it was rather less than his publicity would have you believe, that he had stolen significant elements from other inventors. That was what led Marconi to be the first example of hacking, well before Anonymous and Lulz-Sec and even well before Matthew Broderick in Wargames.

Marconi was holding a lecture at the Royal Institution in London, a centrepiece of which would be his receipt of a wireless telegraphy message from the Marconi station in Cornwall. Things didn’t go quite to plan, as the message that actually came through was a rude couplet about Marconi

There was a young fellow from Italy

Who diddled the public quite prettily

 

Sent by a magician named Maskelyne, who had been hired by the cable telegraphy companies (who obviously had a vested interest in embarassing or discrediting Marconi’s rival model) and he had set up a radio mast nearby and found the wave length that Marconi would be using.

What really popularised wireless telegraphy was the famous murder case, where Dr Crippen murdered his wife and before the body was found had fled on a transatlantic boat to Canada, with his mistress Ethel Le Neve ( a name which manages to be simultaneously glamourous and dowdy, but was at the time probably just purely glamorous). The Captain of the ship suspected that two of his passengers (Ethel dressed as a boy) were the suspects in the murder case and managed to send wireless telegraphs to that effect.

 

Because of the slow journey time in crossing the Atlantic, the public were able, on both sides of the Atlantic, to follow the story in the press, and knew that on disembarkation the lovers would be arrested, due to the wonders of wireless telegraphy.

 

Okay, back to the case

 

This was a committal application (we seem to be getting a lot of them) arising from the mother in care proceedings disappearing with two children, who were the subjects of Interim Supervision Orders and living at home with her. There was to be a five day final hearing in the case, and the parents were both legally represented.

 

 

  • A final hearing of the local authority’s application for orders in relation to the children has been listed for a date in May 2014 with a time estimate of five court days. I wish to emphasise that at that hearing both parents will have, or have had, the fullest opportunity to contest the local authority’s application and call evidence of their own. They are entitled to public funding so as to ensure that they are represented by family lawyers. Indeed, I note from the court bundle before me that they are so represented. I should also indicate that at the parents’ request within those proceedings a number of family members have been assessed as potential future carers for the children in the event that the court concludes that the parents cannot continue to care safely for the children.

 

 

 

 

  • I do not propose to rehearse the background history of the public law case. It is sufficient for me to record in this judgment that the local authority has significant concerns about the safety and wellbeing of these two children in the care of these parents or either of them individually. The mother is said to be, or have been, a heroin addict; the father has also been dependent on non-prescribed drugs. That said, the social workers have been attempting to work with the parents in order to maximise the prospects of the children being raised within their own family.

 

The Court made orders under the inherent jurisdiction for the location of the children. Part of that order was that anyone who knew of their whereabouts was to provide the information.

By the terms of that order any person served with the order – and I pause here to observe that the mother and the father were both named specifically in the order – must (a) inform the tipstaff of the whereabouts of the children if such are known to him or her, and (b) also in any event inform the tipstaff of all matters within his or her knowledge or understanding which might reasonably assist him in locating the children. Later on the 11th March the father telephoned Social Services to say that he had received a telephone call from, he believed, the mother, and had heard one of the children in the background.

 

On the 12th March, in the morning, two Police officers acting on the instructions, and as agents, of the High Court tipstaff, attended at the parents’ address. After a short delay the father answered the door, indeed on their account only opening the door when they announced that they were Police officers. The officers asked where the mother was. The father claimed not to know. He told the Police officers that the children were “with their mother“. He told the officers that he had last seen the children and the mother on Sunday, the 9th March, and that his wife had taken them to school on the morning of the 10th March, though he had not in fact seen them leave. There is a discrepancy between the Police officers as to whether the father had actually said that he had seen his wife and the children on Monday, the 10th. I do not find it necessary to make a determination on that discrepancy. When challenged by the officers with the fact that the children were missing he said, “They are not missing, they are with their mother“. He told the officers that he had been separated from the mother for two weeks. He said that although he had known that they were missing for, by now, 48 hours, he had not reported them missing to the Police. He said that he had telephoned family members to inquire specifically naming two brothers, but could not provide the relevant phone numbers of those brothers. I interpolate here to say that the father’s brother told me this morning on sworn oral evidence that he had not in fact spoken with the father on the telephone in this period. There was evidence of the children being in the flat, coats on coat hooks in the hallway, children’s toothbrushes in the bathroom. The father handed the Police officers his mobile phone. It is reported by the officers that the father generally appeared evasive. The officers contend that they had reasonable cause to believe that the father was in fact withholding information about the mother’s and children’s whereabouts. After a telephone call to the High Court tipstaff they arrested the father. The property was searched but the children’s passports were nowhere to be seen. The father said that he did not know where they were (this was of course different from the information he had given the social worker). When the father was arrested he is reported to have asked how long he would be in custody, “because I am supposed to be going on holiday“.

 

Now the What’s App stuff

 

 

  • he father was brought to court on the 13th March, the following day, and at that hearing Russell J remanded the father in custody to today’s hearing. She made further orders requiring the attendance at court today of other family members. Pursuant to her order, the notice of committal was issued later that day and served on the father, as I have said, on the following day. This notice contains the following alleged breach of the location order:

 

 

 

“That the Respondent father has knowledge or information pertaining to the whereabouts of the children. He has given differing accounts to the local authority and tipstaff.”

 

 

  • At the outset of the hearing today I was advised that the father’s mobile telephone, seized by the Police on the 12th March, as indicated above, contained a number of ‘whatsapp’ or text messages in Bangladeshi or Sylheti and in English, and a recently sent photograph of Samira. The dates of the text messages appear to span a number of weeks. I put the case back so that an interpreter could be located to translate the text messages for the court.

 

 

 

 

  • In the meantime I heard brief sworn oral evidence from the father’s brother. He told me that he had a “feeling” that the mother and children were in Bangladesh but advised me that this was not because he had been told this but simply that the mother had travelled there in the past.

 

 

 

 

  • The evidence laid before the court by the local authority now reveals the following, that mobile telephone text messages or ‘whatsapps’ had passed between the father and his nephew, a man called Shahed, in Bangladesh in a period which spans about six weeks. It now transpires that the father believes that the mother is having a relationship with Shahed. In that period it appears that on one occasion the father had sought to send Shahed some information or documents by email or text but had not been able to do so. On the 18th February a number of pictures with typed text on them, possibly court orders, were exchanged by text. On the 8th March, that is Saturday of last weekend, the father received a ‘whatsapp’ message from Shahed which reads:

 

 

 

 

“On the way Dacca … need more 6 hour.” 

 

There is then a selection of photographs one of which is of Shahed in a car. On the following day, the 9th March, the father sent a message to his nephew, Shahed, which includes this phrase, “Anyway, tell my sister-in-law [the word in Sylhet was Babi, and the father told me that he could not say that it was not a reference to his wife] to enjoy the sex I could not give“.

 

 

  • The father on the 11th March at 0736 received three photographs from the mobile telephone of Shahed in Bangladesh. Two of those photographs are photographs of Samira. The local authority asserts, with considerable justification, that these text messages very strongly indicate that by the morning of Tuesday, the 11th March, not only was Samira in Bangladesh but the father must have known that.

 

 

 

 

  • The father gave evidence before me this afternoon. He told me that he could not now recall when he had last seen the children. Possibly it was Saturday 8th, or possibly Sunday 9th March. He ascribed his loss of memory either to a 2008 head operation or alternatively the after-effects of a tooth operation which had been conducted some time on the 4th March. He was now confused, he told me, whether the mother had taken the children to school on the Monday morning. If she had done so it would, on his case, have been during a time when he and the mother were in fact separated and she was living away from the home (though he did not know where). He believed that his wife and Shahed, his nephew living in Sylhet, Bangladesh, are engaged in a relationship. He had in the past seen messages from Shahed to his wife and had confronted Shahed and his wife about this in the past. She, Mrs. Khatun, had denied it, but the father went on to tell me that the mother had been to Bangladesh twice on her own to stay with Shahed, once in April 2012 and again in September 2012. Significantly, he told me that he first suspected that the mother and children had in fact fled abroad to Bangladesh sometime on Tuesday, the 11th. He told me because he was calling her and when he called her mobile phone he heard a different ring tone. He told me that when she did not pick up the phone he sent her texts. These texts have been read to the court. In the early hours of the 11th March he sent a text to the mother which includes these terms:

 

 

 

 

I’m so stupid and naïve that everything was happening in front of my eyes but did not see. Anyway, I hope you are getting enough now because you have a lot of load to offload if you get my drift. Anyway, enjoy the passionate making out and don’t worry you get pregnant because I’ve taken the long-term precaution … Love you still. 

 

He goes on:

 

 

Good luck with your new good looking husband and please don’t bullshit me that it was just a phase because I know that you got married to this guy. 

 

In the early hours of the following morning, the 12th March, about eight or nine hours or so before the Police went to the father’s property, the father texted the mother again.

 

 

I can’t believe you forgot. I went out begging for money because we didn’t have any after doing all this for you. You still deceive me. I hope it was worth it … 

 

And then two minutes later:

 

 

Sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you so forgive me, my love.” 

 

 

  • As is apparent from my earlier account of the history, the father did not tell the Police on the 12th March that he knew or suspected that the mother was with Shahed in Bangladesh. He told me that he did not tell anyone, he does not know why he did tell anyone, but he thought he may be able to sort it out. In relation to the text from his nephew, “On the way to Dacca“, the father unconvincingly told me that, “I thought he was on a trip or something“. The father told me that he did not see the 11th March message from his nephew with the photographs of Samira even though these had been received by his phone for 24 hours or more before the Police went to his property and I know, as the father has accepted, that he used his phone and the ‘whatsapp’ facility on it to communicate with his wife at least twice since the arrival of those photographs.

 

 

With all that in mind, the evidence against father was damning. The Judge made his decision

 

 

  • Having regard to the totality of the evidence, I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that when served with the location order on the 12th March the father had knowledge which might reasonably assist the tipstaff in locating the children. I so find for the following reasons:

 

 

 

 

(a) first, that the father has himself admitted to believing that the children and the mother were abroad in Bangladesh as early as Tuesday, the 11th March. His text messages to the mother are clear evidence of this. 

(b) In fact I find that the father, beyond reasonable doubt, suspected that they were in Bangladesh before that time.

(c) I further find that the father had received and seen the photograph of Samira (taken in Bangladesh) on the 11th March shortly after it had arrived, certainly well before the Police attended at his home.

(d) I find that the father deliberately misled the Police in declining to assist in disclosing what was a high probability in his own mind that the children and the mother were in Bangladesh at the time that they questioned him about it.

 

The only issue that remained was what sentence would be passed

 

  • Mr. Ali, will you stand, please. Mr. Ali, it appears almost certain that your wife has left this country with your two children who are the subject of court proceedings. I suspect, but do not find, that if she has done so it has been to frustrate the due process of the law and specifically to avoid participation in the court hearing at which the Family Court would be considering the local authority’s concerns about the wellbeing of the children. You have said yourself you believe that the mother is a heroin addict yet you have failed, as I have found, to assist the court in attempting to locate these children, allowing the children to remain in the care of their heroin addict mother without supervision by authority.

 

 

 

 

  • On the 11th March, Mr. Ali, I made orders designed to trace and locate these children, and once located to restrict their movement while decisions were made about their immediate futures. As you will have just heard, I did not make orders at that time permitting their immediate removal into foster care. However, you, Mr. Ali, have deliberately withheld and, in my judgment, continue to withhold information which could lead to the whereabouts of the children. You have obstructed the Police, you have obstructed Social Services, and you have obstructed this court in our joint endeavour to trace your missing children. It is your obstruction of the court order which provokes this application for committal.

 

 

 

 

  • Mr. Ali, untold damage is done to children who are spirited away from one home to another, let alone from one continent to another, without warning or preparation. Disruption to their routines, the predictability of their lives, their family relationships and social relationships and to their schooling is inevitable. Parents who remove children from their home environments in this way cannot, and should not, go unpunished. Parents who seek to protect those who remove children in these circumstances, who deliberately obstruct the due administration of justice, and knowingly breach court orders should also expect to be punished appropriately by the court.

 

 

 

 

  • I accept, Mr. Ali, that there is no evidence of your involvement in any preplanning of this trip to Bangladesh, but you have, in my finding, deliberately obstructed the due administration of justice and, by your lies to the court today, continue to do so.

 

 

 

 

  • I have taken into account your home circumstances, that you presently assist in caring for your elderly mother, but the sentence which I impose has to be a custodial sentence to reflect the gravity of your breach.

 

 

 

 

  • The sentence I impose is one of four months imprisonment. You will serve one-half of that sentence.

 

 

If you must Hague, don’t be vague

 

The “too long, didn’t read” version – if you’re making an application in the High Court under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985, bring your chequebook. And if you’re doing that, and are listed before the Honourable Mr Justice Charles, ring your bank manager first.

 

 

A discussion of the decision in the High Court of B v A 2012

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2012/3127.html

 

As readers of the blog will know, I often lavish praise on High Court Judges. I am fond of High Court Judges who have admirable qualities, such as clarity of thought, beautiful construction of sentences, being able to illuminate a difficult point with a clever analogy, or who are fundamentally kind and appreciate the human dynamics of the cases that appear before them.

 

I am not afraid of distributing praise in those circumstances – I would say fulsome praise, but I am mindful of the words of Inigo Montoya   (no, not, “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”  – the other one)  “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”

 

Don’t ever say fulsome if you mean generously complimentary….   Or at least, not to a word-geek.

 

 

Anyway, this judgment is by the Honourable Mr Justice Charles and is bloody important for anyone who deals with abduction cases, both solicitors and counsel.

 

 

It would be fair to say that he was irked during the course of this judgment. He considered that insufficient care had been given both to the very serious nature of the application for a location order and to involve the tipstaff, and moreover to the inherent risks of doing so where the initial application was made ex parte, and the facts laid out before the Court were both partial  and potentially partisan.

 

The Judge begins by setting out the reasons why making such orders is extremely serious

 

  • Tipstaff orders, and thus location orders, are (and are designed to be) powerful weapons in the search for children and the determination by the courts of England and Wales of issues relating to their future. They enable public authorities to interfere in the private lives of adults and children and carry serious penalties. It should be known to all judges who grant them that experience has shown that: 

    i) the travelling time of a flight to England can often allow for steps to be taken to meet the relevant adult and child at the airport on arrival, 

    ii) the orders can often be triggered when an adult comes to the notice of the police for some other reason (e.g. a motoring offence), and

    iii) these possible triggers to an order mean that care needs to be taken to ensure that their enforcement (and so possibly an arrest and detention under them) only remains a possibility for as long as they are needed to fulfil their purpose.

     

  • The potentially serious impact of such orders means that those who apply for them and those who grant them should act with caution and due regard to the principles and procedures relating to the grant of relief on a without notice basis (see for example Young v Young [2012] 2 FLR 470 at paragraph 26 (ii) to (v). That case related to a passport order in a case seeking a financial remedy but the same approach is required to a case relating to the alleged abduction of a child or other proceedings relating to a child).

 

Nothing at all to disagree with there.

The Judge was perturbed that an application had been made that was not  constructed as well as it ought to have been. He reminded the applicant’s counsel of a valuable  previous authority B Borough Council v S & Anor [2006] EWHC 2584 (Fam)   dealing specificially with how inappropriate it was for these applications to be made without notice without a great deal of care.

 

  1. General comment on without notice applications


37. There is a natural temptation for applicants to seek, and courts to grant, relief to protect vulnerable persons whether they are children or vulnerable adults. In my view this can lead (and experience as the applications judge confirms that it does lead) to practitioners making without notice applications which are not necessary or appropriate, or which are not properly supported by appropriate evidence. Also there is in my view a general practice of asking the court to grant without notice orders over a fairly extended period with express permission to apply to vary or discharge on an inappropriately long period of notice (often 48 hours). It seems to me that on occasions this practice pays insufficient regard to the interests of both the persons in respect of whom and against whom the orders are made, and that therefore on every occasion without notice relief is sought and granted the choice of the return date and the provisions as to permission to apply should be addressed with care by both the applicants and the court. Factors in that consideration will be an estimation of the effect on the person against whom the order is made of service of the order and how that is to be carried out.

38. Inevitably on a without notice application the court hears from only the applicant. Good practice, fairness and indeed common sense demand that on any such application the applicant should provide the court with:

i) a balanced, fair and particularised account of the events leading up to the application and thus of the matters upon which it is based. In many cases this should include a brief account of what the applicant thinks the respondent’s case is, or is likely to be,

ii) where available and appropriate, independent evidence,

iii) a clear and particularised explanation of the reasons why the application is made without notice and the reasons why the permission to apply to vary or discharge the injunction granted should be on notice (rather than immediately or forthwith as in the standard collection and location orders) and why the return date should not be within a short period of time. As to that I accept and acknowledge that a reference to notice being given if practicable, or for a short period of notice (say 2 working hours or just two hours if a week end or holiday period is imminent), may often provide an appropriate balance to avoid a sequence of effectively without notice applications, and that in some cases a longer period of notice may be appropriate, and

iv) in many cases an account of the steps the applicant proposes concerning service, the giving of an explanation of the order and the implementation of an order. This is likely to be of particular importance in cases such as this one where emotional issues are involved and family members of a person who lacks capacity are the subject of the injunctions and orders. In such cases, as here, information as to those intentions are likely to inform issues as to the need for, and the proportionality of, the relief sought and granted

39. As to point (ii) I pause to mention that in my view it is surprising and disappointing how many times a without notice application for relief is made in the Family Division based only on largely unparticularised assertions by one side of serious allegations without any third party material to support them, or more generally the basis for the relief sought. I appreciate that in many instances there is a very real urgency and there will not be third party evidence of allegations of abusive behaviour that are readily available but in others there will be. A classic example, which occurs regularly, is that an applicant who seeks a return of children to his or her care fails to provide any third party evidence (e.g. from a school, a GP or records in their possession) to confirm that he or she is indeed the primary carer of the relevant children.

40. Guidance has often been given on the information to be provided and the procedure to be followed in seeking without notice relief (see at first instance Re S (a child) (ex parte orders) [2001] 1 WLR 211, [2000] 3 FCR 706, W v H (ex parte injunctions) [2000] 3 FCR 481 (by analogy X Council v B (Emergency Protection Orders) [2005] 1 FLR 341 and Re X (Emergency Protection Orders) [2006] EWHC 510 (Fam)) and in the Court of Appeal Moat Housing v Harris [2005] 2 FLR 551 in particular at paragraphs 63 to 69, and see also the notes to CPR Part 25 and the practice note now reported at [2006] 2 FLR 354).

41. Naturally I endorse that guidance and do not seek to add to it save to emphasise the points made above and to record my own observations that practitioners (a) too regularly do not follow and implement that guidance, and (b) by such failure show an insufficient appreciation of the exceptional nature of without notice relief and the impact it has (or potentially has) on the rights, life and emotions of the persons against whom it is granted.

42. As to this I acknowledge that the courts must take part of the blame for such failures by granting relief without notice in cases when (a) the guidance has not been followed, and (b) the impact on the person against whom the relief is granted could be considerable.

43. I add that additionally there is a need (a) to comply strictly with undertakings given at the time the order is made, and (b) to keep full and proper records of what is put before the court and said to the court. This should include a record of the times of the hearing so that a transcript can be more easily obtained. The availability of a transcript does not however reduce the duty of those applying for without notice relief to keep a full record of what the court was shown and was told.

 

Having quoted those passages, the Judge then indicated that he fully agreed with them    and added to them

 

16. As well as endorsing the guidance set out above, there are three additional comments I would make:

(1) If information is put before the court to substantiate a without notice order, it should be the subject of the closest scrutiny and, if the applicant is not present in person to verify it, be substantiated by production of a contemporaneous note of the instructions. If that is not available, there may need to be a short adjournment to enable steps to be taken to verify the information relied upon.

(2) If additional information is put before the court orally, there must be a direction for the filing of sworn evidence to confirm the information within a very short period of time. If that direction had not been made in this case, the passport order would have been executed when the grounds for obtaining it were simply not there. That would have involved a gross breach of the defendant’s rights, quite apart from the court having been given misleading information.

(3) Lastly, leaving the scrutiny that the court should give to without notice applications to one side, it is incumbent on those advising whether such an application is justified to consider rigorously whether an application is justified and be clear as to the evidential basis for it.”

 

 

 

All very good points, I have been on the other end of a number of ex parte applications, and when you come to Court and outline what the other side of the story is, you often see the Judge’s expression become “Well, if I had known THAT…”  

 

And these applications are of course, an immensely serious interference with someone’s liberty and free movement, and it is therefore important that a great deal of care is taken, both by the advocate presenting the case and by the tribunal determining it.

 

 

The long and short of this case was that the applicant’s representatives ended up not just not getting the order, but with something far, far, far worse than that. Probably the worst outcome you can ever get if you send counsel off to Court to make an application.  

  1. As mentioned in B Borough Council v S, I recognise that there is a natural temptation for applicants to seek, and for courts to grant, relief to protect the vulnerable, and, I add, to find children who it is alleged have been abducted. But this temptation, and the strong public interest in granting such relief, does not provide an excuse for failures to apply the correct approach in law to such applications. Indeed, if anything, the strong public interest in providing such relief and its impact on the subjects of the relief and their families mean that the correct approach in law should be followed and so the sound reasons for it, based on fairness, should be observed. Naturally this applies to all without notice applications, but it can be said to have particular importance when Tipstaff orders are sought and granted because they can found a deprivation of liberty without further court involvement, and they do restrict freedom of movement.
  1. In my view, a practice of granting and continuing Tipstaff orders in Hague Convention cases as a matter of course and without insisting on properly prepared, particularised and updating evidence is to be deprecated.

 

AND

  1. It seems to me that if such failures are to be avoided in the future there is a need for judges:

i) to refuse to make without notice orders if the established principles and procedures are not applied (I and some other judges do this), and

ii) to treat such failures as negligent and thus as a foundation for the exercise of discretion to make a wasted costs order.

  1. Sadly, the first course alone has not resulted in general improvement and it is to be hoped that when the second course is added it will. But, I acknowledge and confirm that this promotional effect is not a ground for making the order rather it is a potential product of making such an order applying the approach set out in Ridehalgh.

 

 

And more chillingly for advocates

 

  1. Generally, a litigant has to take the consequences of such behaviour and look to his advisers for recompense but I have concluded that the application for costs against him should be refused, because:

i) the point that the shortcomings in the presentation of his case by his advisers is a reflection of endemic failures of family practitioners and courts means that his conduct should not be categorised and reprehensible or beyond the band of what is reasonable (see paragraph 80 hereof), and

ii) the policy and merits arguments referred to in paragraphs 82 to 84 support no such order being made.

 

 

Thus it wasn’t the client who was going to be hit for costs, but rather his representatives

 

 

  1. Also, in my view:

i) the merits and policy arguments referred to in paragraphs 82 to 84 above, and

ii) the point that the father’s solicitors are unfortunate to be singled out when their failures to comply with the principles and procedures relating to without notice applications are widespread in the Family Division and were not picked up by a number of judges,  warrant reductions in the costs to be awarded as wasted costs.

  1. Taking the above into account, in respect of the costs schedule up to the hearing on 10 September 2012, I make a wasted costs order against the father’s solicitors in the sum of £18,000 (to include VAT).

 

The Judge had actually knocked quite a bit off the costs to reflect that this was a warning shot across the bows and that the particular advocates involved had not been worse in their failings than many other cases.  But implicit in that is “woe betide”

 

I suspect that there may well be some family barristers who are having gentle chats with their clerks about whether the cab rank rule means that they need to take cases where they are liable to be personally stung for costs of £18,000 plus, and frantic calls to the RCJ list office to determine tribunals might well be being made.

 

I do wonder also whether sufficient weight has been given here to the very nature of the applications – a parent believes their child has been abducted, the child is missing, information is sketchy and develops piecemeal, and often the most strikingly important details emerge during the course of the day and are not necessarily reduced to affidavit form in advance. I also wonder how much better such cases will be presented in the High Court when those advocates who are skilled and accomplished at presenting them no longer want to bear the personal risk of doing so…