September 7th, 2018
A High Court Judge has criticised the barristers involved in a long family dispute for interrupting each other excessively. The Judge went so far as to describe the hearing as a “shouting match”.
The case concerned a series of disputes made over the past ten years between the parents of a girl who is now 13. There were multiple allegations of abuse. At the end of 2015 the father appealed the child arrangements order. The following year he applied to the Court for permission to take his daughter to Hungary for a holiday and then for a resumption of contact. Following unsuccessful mediation, he then applied for his daughter to be examined by a psychiatrist in order to ascertain whether or not she had been unduly influenced by her mother and her own wishes regarding the situation between her parents. His application was unsuccessful.
The father appealed a final order granting him two hours of contact per month on a number of grounds, including the suggestions that the Judge had not properly prepared for the case and that the abrupt end to the proceedings had not been in the child’s best interests.
There was a direction to obtain and review the transcript of the hearing at which the final order had been made. Mr Justice MacDonald said he had been concerned by the number of the times the barristers for each party had interrupted each other, saying “discipline in the hearing appears to have broken down entirely”.
“The father himself begins to make submissions to the learned Judge, barristers for the father, mother and daughter continue to make points with little order, structure or focus, and even the daughter’s legal guardian enters the arena at one point.”
“The requirement for submissions to be made in a clearly defined order aims to ensure that each party has a fair opportunity to present their case on the issues that are before the court for determination. A failure by advocates [barristers] to assist the court in adhering to this requirement is corrosive of that aim. In this case, the reception by the court of properly sequenced submissions was rendered extremely difficult by a concerning tendency on the part of the advocates simply to interrupt each other in an effort to advance their competing submissions. It should go without saying that this mode of advocacy does not assist the court and is to be deprecated.”
As a result of this argumentative approach the father had not been given a fair chance to properly present his case, and as a result of this “serious procedural irregularity” his appeal should be allowed the Judge explained.
Stacey qualified as a Solicitor in 2011 having completed her training with Hine Solicitors in Beaconsfield. Stacey has since worked for the Legal 500 firm, Duncan Lewis Solicitors in London. Stacey has extensive experience in all areas of family law including advising clients in relation to co-habitation, divorce, matrimonial finances, pre & post-nuptial agreements. Stacey was delighted to join specialist practice Hawkins Family Law (The Legal 500 2015 recommends the team as “exemplary”) in February 2016 and has considerable experience resolving children issues whether they are in relation to where a child should live or issues regarding contact.
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