November 23rd, 2018
Case: G (A Child - transparency in the family courts)  EWHC 1301 (Fam)
Munby P has refused to allow disclosure in relation to a 2002 case, making an important judgment in relation to transparency in the family courts.
The case concerned children act proceedings which took place in 2002. The Mother (M) and the Father (F) had been in “long drawn out litigation of attrition” in relation to their daughter (G), who was 2 years of age at the time. Singer J heard a 3-day final hearing in 2002 and made findings against M. He concluded that G should live with F and not have contact with M. He also required undertakings from both parents not to disclose information regarding the case to the media. This decision was not appealed by either party.
G is now approaching 18 and continues to live with F. She also has two half-siblings, BB who also lives with F and was 15 at the conclusion of the 2002 proceedings, and B who lives with M and was 17. Munby heard two separate applications made by B and M seeking permission to disclosure of information regarding the case.
B’s application was for disclosure to him. He had already been granted permission to Singer J’s judgment and four expert reports (subject to an undertaking not to disclose the documents to anyone without permission of the court). He was now asking for all files and documents regarding the proceedings, including statements and further expert reports.
Munby P noted that B had a right to know the truth about his past and his parents under Article 8 ECHR. B’s rights under this Article were, however, not relevant to all the documents within the file as many concerned F and G. Munby found that full disclosure of the file was not relevant to B’s desire to understand the proceedings and the basis for the findings. To fully understand his family history, he did not require full disclosure and his connection to the proceedings was somewhat remote. The additional documentation sought would not further his understanding, as Singer J’s reasons were contained within his judgment. He also stated in his judgment “the additional advantage to B of affording him access to all the papers he wishes to read is plainly counter-balanced by the adverse impact it would have upon F and G”.
Munby P ordered that B could only have certain documentation, including certain statements and two further expert reports. He, again however, required undertakings as to non-dissemination. BB was awarded the same.
M applied to be discharged from her undertaking not to communicate with the media. She stated that “my driving force is that my children and any family in the future have the chance to make up their own minds about me by reading the whole story”. She emphasised that she felt there had been a miscarriage of justice and wanted to be heard in the “court of public opinion”. In support of her application, M provided a mass of new evidence which she stated would “prove her innocence”. This new evidence focused on what was believed to be serious deficiencies in the expert evidence.
Munby P’s reasons for his decision can be summarised as follows:-
Munby P therefore concluded that M should not be permitted public publicity.
What do you think about Munby’s findings? Do you think it was right for him to prevent M from telling the media her version of the story, or was it right to protect F and G from the world knowing the ins and outs of their private family life?
Having obtained her A Levels from the Royal Latin School in Buckingham, Rebecca Stewart went on to obtain a Legal Secretary Diploma through Pitmans Training and immediately following qualification secured a role at Hawkins Family Law. Following that she discovered her true ambition lay in becoming a Legal Executive specialising in Family Law.In 2012 Rebecca enrolled at Cilex Law School and by 2015 had completed all her level 3 exams, achieving distinctions in 3 of these modules, and is now an Associate Member of Cilex. Rebecca is now working towards her level 6 qualifications and is now able to act as a trainee Legal Executive under the supervision of the Directors of Hawkins Family Law.
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