Wrongful removal, domestic violence and judicial misconduct: The last week in family law

A Moroccan father whose son was brought to the UK by his mother against the father’s wishes has won his appeal to the Supreme Court. The appeal in J (A Child) concerned the application of the 1996 Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (‘the 1996 Convention’), in particular the scope of the jurisdiction conferred by article 11 of the Convention in ‘all cases of urgency’ on a contracting state where a child is present but not habitually resident. The Court of Appeal had held that this was not an urgent case because the father could have made an immediate application to the Moroccan court for a return order. However, the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal, holding that it is open to the English courts to exercise the article 11 jurisdiction in cases of wrongful removal under the 1996 Convention.
Resolution, the association of family lawyers, has released a new guide for divorcing and separating parents in relationships where domestic abuse is, or has been, a feature. The guide, which can be found here, advises parents on dealing with difficult divorce situations, including those characterised by abuse, addiction and parental alienation. It includes information on how parents can protect themselves from abuse, and how to help children through emotionally difficult situations.
A judge has criticised the ‘minimal investigation’ into the death of 13 month old Poppi Worthington. Poppi died after being found with a serious injury at her home in Barrow, Cumbria, in 2012. In his fact-finding judgment, produced as part of care proceedings in relation to the other children in the family, Mr Justice Peter Jackson suggested Poppi’s death “did not receive the professional response to which she and her family were entitled”. He said that “extreme” and unusual delay in the production of the post-mortem caused police to carry out only “minimal investigation” in the intervening nine months. In a statement Cumbria County Council said: “At the time Poppi Worthington died, Cumbria children’s services were not involved with her or her family. Following her death, we worked with her family and other agencies to ensure her siblings were not at risk of harm, ultimately making an application to the court to bring them into our care. The judge found that this application should have been made sooner, given the circumstances of the case. We fully accept this criticism and the judge’s view that this had a bearing on the wider investigation into Poppi’s death.”
Women and girls are still not being protected from violent men because of “critical frontline failings”, according to an evaluation of the past ten years of government action on the issue. A report by End Violence Against Women, a coalition of campaigning groups, claims that, despite a focus on reducing domestic violence and increased awareness of child sexual abuse, male violence “still goes unchecked”. The report covers the period since a 2005 review into blunders surrounding the case of Ian Huntley, who went on to murder schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. End Violence Against Women finds that services for abuse victims are struggling to remain open, and it also criticises the government’s refusal to make sex and relationship education compulsory in schools.
And finally, a Liverpool judge who was branded “rude”, “unprincipled” and “unfair” has been reprimanded for serious misconduct, following an investigation by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (‘JCIO’). Judge Robert Stephen Dodds, who sits at the family court in Liverpool, was investigated after he was rebuked twice by Court of Appeal judges and told that he should be embarrassed by his conduct. The JCIO began an investigation in February after complaints from several Merseyside families who have had their children taken into care following orders made by Judge Dodds. The JCIO confirmed that Judge Dodds had been reprimanded over his conduct and management of three court cases, which they said amounted to serious misconduct.