Bloomsbury Family Law Briefing: March Teaser

Case Summaries

Re A & B (Children) (Deaf Parent - Assessment and Practice) [2021] EWFC 10 (9 February 2021), Elizabeth Isaacs as a High Court judge – Care order and placement of children aged two and one. The mother’s deafness and its consequences for the children was considered fully throughout the judgment.

Ocado Group PLC & anor v McKeeve [2021] EWCA Civ 145 (8 February 2021) – Solicitor who gave advice to ‘burn’ relevant evidence in civil proceedings had a case to answer in contempt proceedings.

NB v MI [2021] EWHC 224 (Fam) (8 February 2021), Mostyn J – NB, despite a serious accident in 1995, did not lack capacity to consent to marriage: her application and her nullity petition were not proved and must be dismissed (see [41]). It open to NB to seek a declaration that the marriage was void (Family Law 1986, s 58(4) and (5)(a) (see [59])). Note: so far as NB sought declarations to avoid her H having a financial relief claim against her, Mostyn J described his chances of a successful claim as ‘vanishingly remote’ (see [112]).

Re R (Children: Control of Court Documents) [2021] EWCA Civ 162 (12 February 2021) – Order for refusal of release of court documents to a father who had been found to be a predatory paedophile. He had raped one of his sisters. He was serving a 21 year a sentence: plea of guilty to the oral rape of his own three-year-old daughter, and to taking and sharing photographs of the assault, and to other child pornography offences).

Finch v Baker [2021] EWCA Civ 72 (28 January 2021) – Permission to a wife for a second appeal, where she had not properly – or at all – applied to adduce fresh pension evidence. Appeal refused.

WX v HX (Treatment of Matrimonial and Non-Matrimonial Property) [2021] EWHC 241 (Fam) (10 February 2021), Roberts J – After a 33 year marriage, equal distribution of assets of around £39 million; and achieved by retention by each of a freehold property and transfer of £6.4 million by H to W. The parties’ adult children were joined as parties as beneficiaries of a nuptial settlement fund. Their fund beneficially owned the property retained by H (worth £10.3 million) which the judge treated ‘as an asset of H's’.

Re O (A Child : Judgment: Adequacy Of Reasons) [2021] EWCA Civ 149 (16 February 2021) – Findings of anal abuse on 3 year-old child. Appeal allowed because judge’s reasons were ‘inadequate and flawed’. Discussion of steps to be taken if a judgement is thought to be inadequate (per Baker LJ at [55] quoting from English v Emery Reimbold & Strick Ltd [2002] EWCA Civ 605, [2002] 1 WLR 2409 (at [24]); now reproduced in effect at FPR 2010 by PD30A paras 4.6-4.9.

Court control of documents to parties

The background facts to Re R (Children: Control of Court Documents) [2021] EWCA Civ 162 (12 February 2021) were extreme; but they provided Peter Jackson LJ in the Court of Appeal with an opportunity to look at the extent to which the court can restrict or refuse release of documents to a party to proceedings, where normally a party to proceedings would expect to have full access – as would the court or another party to the proceedings.

R's paedophile offences were extensive and he was subject to a 21 year prison sentence His offences included after pleading guilty to the oral rape of his own three-year-old daughter, and to taking and sharing photographs of the assault, and to other child pornography offences. He asked to have sight of all documents in his daughter’s case. The circuit judge said no. He appealed against that decision

Two months later, R he asked to be given physical copies of the unredacted judgment and of the written closing submissions filed on his behalf and on behalf of the other parties. The judge said no. R appealled against that decision. Peter Jackson LJ gave permission to appeal, but solely on grounds, he said, that there was some ‘compelling reason for the appeal to be heard’. It ‘offered an opportunity for this court to consider the Family Court's powers to control the distribution of sensitive material and the principles on which such powers should be exercised’ (see [11]). Having reviewed the law on control of documents Peter Jackson LJ dismissed R’s appeal. And in so doing he had reviewed and defined the limits on the power of the court to control release of court material to parties.

The Family Law Briefing is part of the Bloomsbury Law Online Service. The full briefing is available here.

David Burrows

Written by David Burrows

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