How not to talk to a judge

Family Law|March 24th 2014

It’s something I’ve said many times before, but it’s worth saying again, especially in times when so many people have to represent themselves: do not lose your temper in court!

Of course, it’s easy to say, but when you are dealing with highly emotive issues such as arrangements for your children then it can be difficult to keep your temper in check, especially when you feel that things are going against you, or when the other party says something which you consider to be untrue. However, losing your temper in court can be a sure-fire way to lose your case.

Take, for example what happened in the recent case of Leicester City Council v Chhatbar & Another, decided by Mr Justice Mostyn on the 28th of February.

The case concerned a child, Abdul Rahman, who was born in Leicester on the 31st of May last year. Following his birth the local authority, Leicester City Council, obviously became concerned about his welfare and accordingly they drew up a child protection plan. On the 12th of October Abdul’s parents, aware of the local authority involvement, took him to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. As is well known, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not recognised by the European union as an independent state and is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Effects of Child Abduction. Nor does it subscribe to or apply the child abduction provisions of the Brussels II regulation. It was therefore likely to be considerably more difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a court order there requiring his parents to return Abdul to this country, or to enforce such an order made in this country.

On the 17th of October Abdul was made a ward of court. The question that Mr Justice Mostyn had to determine was whether Abdul was habitually resident here when the wardship order was made, so that the local authority could argue that he was being unlawfully retained by the parents in Northern Cyprus.

Mr Justice Mostyn found that Abdul was habitually resident here on the 17th of October. He did not speculate as to why Abdul’s parents had taken him to Northern Cyprus, but said that “pretty easy conclusions can be drawn”. He also pointed out that at the relevant time the father was under an order of probation given by a criminal court here in relation to an offence of domestic violence. He was therefore obliged under our law to be in this country in order to undergo the probation.

The parents had been following the case by video link from Northern Cyprus. At the end of the hearing, the father asked Mr Justice Mostyn whether they could appeal the decision. There then followed this exchange:

MR. JUSTICE MOSTYN: I can only give permission [to appeal] if I am satisfied that you have got a real prospect of success or there is some other good reason why an appeal should be heard. Is there anything else you want to say about that?

MR. CHHATBAR: Yes, it is a joke, isn’t it? It is a fraud. It is a fraud mate. It is all a f***ing fraud.


MR. CHHATBAR: Good luck in trying to find us. Good luck.

MR. JUSTICE MOSTYN: Thank you very much.

MR. CHHATBAR: The court has got no jurisdiction. We are never coming back to England. Good luck. See how powerful you are, yes. You are powerful sitting there in your chair. It is a f***ing fraud.

Needless to say, Mr Justice Mostyn refused permission to appeal. Now, I’m not saying that the father’s rudeness and complete lack of respect for the court made any difference to that decision, but it certainly did him no favours, and may well work against him if the case ever does go before a court considering whether to order a return, or enforce such an order.

The father’s outburst is also indicative of the attitude often displayed by irate litigants in person. However, lack of respect for, or lack of cooperation with the court (such as failing to attend hearings) is never going to achieve anything positive. Hard as it may be, the best approach, not just for yourself but particularly for any children involved, is to control your temper, remain polite and cooperate with the court.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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  1. Paul says:

    On the other hand. I can well understand a much maligned but wholly deserving father losing patience with a judge after passing through endless hoops to gain a mere smidgeon of contact.

  2. Luke says:

    Of course it is not a good idea to lose one’s temper with a Judge, I don’t see how it ever helps, however, in this case Mr Chhatbar has a point doesn’t he ?

    Isn’t the reality that not cooperating with the Judge’s wishes means Mr Chhatbar gets what he wants – how does the Judge enforce the judgement ?

  3. Caz says:

    When in these courts (because of the secretivity that once reigned), to listen to the accussations is so hard to keep composer, from no injuries investigated by Cleveland Police, we as a family were accussed of injuries as reported in the media recieved by a highly famed sportsman, now recently the reason for changing my Grandsons name was stated in Court by the LA representative that they can change the name (Use the childs Christian name followed by the Fathers surname then the mothers surname) a child that was 7 weeks old

  4. Stitchedup says:

    You should have seen my face when the barrister accused me of the hideously abusive crime of leaving my sailing bag in the hallway. I just looked at him with a what the !?*$ !!!! expression on my face and said nothing. The judge obviously noticed and understood my expression as his comment to the barrister was “Yes Mr Taylor!”.

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