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President of the Family Division to intervene in courtroom assault case

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March 28, 2024

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, is to intervene in the case of a man who assaulted his estranged wife during a courtroom hearing.

The attack occurred at Southend County Court earlier this month during a hearing into residence and contact arrangements for the couple’s child. The judge had begun to  deliver her verdict when the man stood up and punched his wife. Ushers, lawyers, and the judge herself all joined in efforts to restrain the man. He was arrested and charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and assault by beating, The Guardian reports. His wife was treated for severe bruising,

The unnamed man, who had no legal representation, pleaded guilty to the offences and is due to appear in Crown Court to be sentenced later this month. And on Wednesday of this week, he will also be taken before Sir James Munby in London for contempt of court proceedings.

Steve Hynes is director of charity the Legal Action Group. He believes the increase in self-represented litigants in person since the cessation of legal aid for most family law cases earlier this year could lead to an increase in courtroom violence. He told the paper:

“[Violence] has always been a problem in family cases. It is not the first time it has happened. I have talked to judges and they have expressed concern about such incidents, particularly in family courts. But the increase in litigants in person adds another risk factor. There’s no one there to explain to them what is going to happen. They don’t know what to expect and they don’t know what the strengths and weaknesses of the case are. It can lead to frustration. The danger is there could be more of such incidents because there are more litigants in person. But that’s no excuse for such an attack.”

But a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice cast doubt on this. “Self-represented parties are not a new phenomenon. Immediately prior to our legal aid changes about half of private law children’s cases involved them. Lawyers representing a party would not play a role in court security matters, and we have no evidence to suggest any increase in this type of incident since April.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Paul says:

    Apart from the easy target that a delinquent, but probably stressed-out, father presents here, just how many cases does Sir James Munby intervene in where a father and his children become separated for ever?

    This is just self-serving propaganda, following the emptying of the legal aid trough so beloved by the legal profession.

    Why did the man lunge out? Were there lies told about him, false allegations that stuck? Or was he damned forever by the inadequacies of a Cafcass report blithely accepted in full by a couldn’t-care-less judge. Violence is never acceptable but this case needs some more facts spelling out to give the violence some context by which we can better understand it. Let’s hope Munby gives the man a chance to speak up.

  2. JamesB says:

    Nothing to do with LiPs, everything to do with unfair law.

  3. JamesB says:

    He should have gone for the Judge instead.

  4. Cliff Thornton says:

    Steve Hynes should be aware that the assault in Southend County Court was nothing to do with the issue of reduced access to legal aid. The attacker chose to represent himself, as he had done at the previous hearing, having previously employed solicitors. Furthermore, this is not the first time that he had assaulted his victim.
    Did you hear about the lone policeman who arrived whilst the attack was in progress, but said he could not enter the courtroom until he had back-up !!!

  5. Andrew says:

    If he gets a custodial sentence from the Crown Court will he get credit against the inevitable custodial sentence from the President?

    What I notice is that if lawyers joined in to restrain them – and good for them – the wife was presumably legally aided. Of course he may not have applied or even been ineligible by reason of means; or of course, not. Did somebody mention the level playing field?

  6. Luke says:

    “Did you hear about the lone policeman who arrived whilst the attack was in progress, but said he could not enter the courtroom until he had back-up !!!”

    Health & Safety of course – I’m surprised the police can do any policing at all – it can be dangerous because there are nasty people that might hurt them…

  7. Paul says:

    Steve Hynes’s LAG organisation promotes the rights of women over those of children and their fathers and has well and truly jumped on the DV gravy train. You only have to read their deeply misandric October 2011 NFWI research (so-called) piece on women and legal aid to see that. No wonder the Women’s Institute is losing members in droves when they tarnish themselves with drivel of that kind.

    This father is going to get caned by Munby. No doubt about that. Because Munby cares about one thing only and that is to impose and enforce respect for the law above all else no matter how wrong, unfair and biased those laws are. He can’t flog or kill but a delinquent father presents a convenient and easy target to pick on while he ignores the huge injustice of his largely judge-made, judge-drive laws.
    Another president of the family division who opts for denial as a convenient mechanism for ignoring the problems of his profession’s own making.

  8. Andrew says:

    Cliff, thank you for the information.

    JamesB, you are beneath contempt.

  9. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    Well Andrew everybody’s entitled to their opinion.

  10. Luke says:

    He assaulted her, it doesn’t matter what he thinks of the outcome, he is an unpleasant violent idiot and one has to think that if he is prepared to do that in court he is unlikely to refrain from doing it behind closed doors.

  11. JamesB says:

    If you take away everything someone holds precious to them then you should expect a bit of this and it is unreasonable. What is beneath contempt is people passively agreeing to dodgy family law in this country I have more respect for this chap, at least he tried to do something about it rather than all those who moan about him but do nothing about the underlying causes. Tough on the causes of it I say.

    I have been a LIP in a court with a judge patronising me and criticising me for interupting him when what he was saying as fact was provable false and I can fully understand him, especially when deliberate provable lies are proved as fact to take your children away and you are supposed to sit down and smile and probably get costs awarded against you at the same time. I can understand his behaviour. you are beneath contempt if you cant empathise with him losing his temper given the way things are in family law oftentimes in this country.

  12. JamesB says:

    One comment I got from said Judge was – I don’t come to your place of work and tell you how to do your job! – when I told him what he was saying wasn’t true.

    I just shut up then. Perhaps this chaps reaction was better than mine which was to give up. Thing is I don’t try to tell the judge he is a bad father when he was me and I am not and there is no evidence that I am. So, yes, I don’t take back what I say above. A court that relies on threats and contempt proceedings without public backing or respect deserves this sort of thing and worse day in and day out.

  13. JamesB says:

    And all that came from a circuit court judge. I could go on and on about the many failings in the system, indeed a couple of Judges on the way admitted the system failed me and my ex and our children.

  14. Andrew says:

    Call me old-fashioned if you like, call me anything you like as long as you don’t call me late for lunch, but I am angry at the suggestion that a man should have hit a woman – including the judge – under any circumstances short, I suppose, of immediate self-defence.

  15. JamesB says:

    well, throwing paper aeroplanes doesn’t really work – I tried it. He got headlines. Perhaps something in between might work better than both of these ideas. Something needs to be done about these places. Was a circuit court Judge and some district Judges I rowed with, not for any effect, but nothing works with them as a bloke anyway.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Not old fashioned. Bit hypocritical to damn violence but condone state child abuse though. Does your chivalry also condemn all the times a woman hits a man, which is a lot more often but not reported and of no interest to the court hooligans?

  17. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    immediate self defense would be justified in my book

  18. Paul says:

    Munby’s intervention will cause this man’s family to crumble into a tyranny, where the parent with care is free to act as she wishes, backed now by state power and police enforcement when required. The father will henceforth be dictated to with impunity. The children will witness all this and become infected by the moral degradation that inevitably accompanies the destruction of home and father. Eventually the police will be required to deal with them as well. So one more family goes down the tubes, thanks to Munby’s efforts. They really ought to change his title to Head of Family Division which at least would be honest and speak for itself.

  19. Paul says:

    I was making a general point of which this case highlights. How many cases does Munby intervene in personally after a mother devastates a father’s life through false allegations and in so doing shows contempt for the law in general as well as pervert the course of justice in her own particular case? Nothing ever happens but when a father steps out of line he is jumped on and punished mercilessly.

  20. JamesB says:

    Anonymous. I thought about your post. Are you saying that either 1. The family law courts are fair, or 2. The father was just about to be be informed that he had won his case? If so then I think you are wrong on both counts and your post makes no sense.

  21. JamesB says:

    If you are male and go to family court in England and Wales you will lose. Better to go down fighting then accepting it as fair when it is not.

  22. Stitchedup says:

    I don’t condone violence unless in immediate self defence or indeed the defence of others. However, once you put the shock horror aspect of a man punching a woman to one side, I tend to agree with Paul’s line on this and I particularly like his comment “They really ought to change his title to Head of Family Division which at least would be honest and speak for itself.”.

    For the family courts to regain any level of credit Munby should haul up a few women that have perjured themselves and perhaps the solicitors that have encouraged them to do it.

    There seems little point in dragging the man to London to be brought before Munby, it stinks of self interest. The man has committed an assault and will be held in contempt of court. I’m sure his local crown court will deal with him harshly.

    However, I would like to add this point. There will only be respect for the courts if they respect human rights and are seen to behave fairly, without politically correct influence/ intervention and are consistent… i.e. do not distort the natural course of justice by making “examples” of people and by having regional “crackdowns”.

  23. JamesB says:

    particularly like his comment “They really ought to change his title to Head of Family Division which at least would be honest and speak for itself.” Yes, me too, I think that is the best line I have seen on the internet for years.

  24. J says:

    Interesting thread, I have been accused for more than 2 years of being abusive violent etc…(i wasn’t) despite this I had to put up with my ex fake sobbing, waving her hair around, laughing, tutting everything except openly farting during my submissions and evidence. Her barrister even shouted B*LLOCKS in court and mutters W*NKER under his breath etc during hearings, judge did nothing. When all that didn’t work I was accused of being mad. She even told court one day I was a narcissist based on her internet diagnosis and later told CAFCASS that I might kill my self and the children. Clearly I love myself too much to kill myself. I have been to court 20 times in 2 years for her 30 breaches of 5 contact orders. What did the circuit judge do? well nothing other than brag about liking to send people to prison for 12 years, I have directly criticised the same judge for delaying proceedings and making misleading and false statements in judgements what did he do?shout me down. After the case I sent him the evidence of his failings direct to his email, what did he do? nothing, hasn’t even had the balls or decency to apologise. My complaint to the OJC is due tomorrow(not holding my breath), however since the complaint he has taken a further step to damage me by blocking me having any say in the schooling of my daughter… why? I asked my ex and her lawyer 7 times for confirmation of her pre school arrangements (I also asked the pre school 3 times) I got no response so I withdrew my consent(the judge had the evidence of the negative course by her lawyers and ignored it) result was that my ex got an ex parte order and had the return hearing in under two days without me attending. This is the same judge who could not organise a hearing for 6 months to deal with the 30 odd breaches of his orders and the contact with my children.
    I have had to put up with being verbally abused on every occasion in court by my ex and her family and have moved 200 miles away to stop being followed and stalked by her. Judges action? nothing so I have had 2 years of abuse on top of what I suffered in the relationship, got no kids, been unlawfully imprisoned(admitted by TVP)& assaulted by police officer(denied by TVP) and I really might as well have punched her because I cannot actually see how the outcome I have is really any different. I haven’t whacked her and wouldn’t, not least I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction, because what goes around comes around and one day she will realise how stupid she’s been. Its just a shame that lawyers and judges are incapable of behaving honestly and doing what’s right for our children.

  25. Anonymous says:

    JamesB – I was responding to Andrew’s comment, not yours.

    Tulsa Divorce Lawyer – Things are different in the UK. Self-Defence is criminal offence. I know a guy who was beaten by teenagers with knives, but trying to fight back landed him in prison (not the 15-year olds) with a conviction. I’ve also seen police haul off a boy who was being smacked by three girls on the street, because he was said to have been ‘violent’ by virtue of provoking it.

  26. Stitchedup says:

    Anonymous is right Matt, we don’t have “stand your ground” laws in the UK. I know a guy that was bound over for defending himself against a Man who threw a glass at him causing lacerations to his Head. He’s an ex Marines reservist so was able to handle himself (much to the dismay of the bloke that threw the glass), but he received the same punishment as the man that started the altercation and threw the glass. You have to be very careful even in clear cases of self defence. I would have thought knocking a man out, no weapons used, was reasonable force against a guy that had just thrown a glass at you and cut your head. The Police, CPS and magistrates thought “there was a question about the level of force used”.

  27. Clare Wakeman says:

    i urgently need to contact sir james munby

  28. Someone who knows the truth says:

    All of you who have dragged your own personal experiences into this in order to make unfair and completely false judgements of this woman should be ashamed. Yes, there are many women out there who see fit to use their children as weapons, I’m having to fight one now. However there are still genuine cases, you seem to forget this. This victim of prolonged domestic abuse has spent years fighting on behalf of her child, a child forced to see the father by SS, a father so loathed and feared that the child is sobbing their heart out at 12 years old, every week begging the mother not to make them have to go. Nice to see THAT NOT ONE OF YOU THOUGHT OF THE CHILD – just your own bitter experiences.

  29. Someone who knows the truth says:

    what rest of comment?

  30. Kim says:

    Only the people who know the facts about this case have a right to comment on it. If he really got what he deserves, he would be locked away for many years dos what he has done to his family!

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