His Honour Judge Wildblood has responded to a public statement made by a woman who disappeared with her son last month.
Two weeks ago, a district judge ruled that the three year-old boy, Ethan, should live with his father. This decision came after protracted and “heavily contested litigation”. The father, Roger Williams, had launched contact proceedings shortly after his separation from Rebecca Minnock, Ethan’s mother.
However, during these proceedings the mother made a number of allegations against the father. These included claims that he took drugs, “was controlling in his behaviour and also behaved in ways that were sexually inappropriate”. The district judge who initially heard the case rejected all of the mother’s allegations.
Additionally, the judge found that “Ethan had been exposed to emotional harm by the mother” and that her attempts to prevent Mr Williams from seeing his son had breached two court orders. The first was for her to attend the hearing, which she did not, and the other was an order which said Ethan should live with his father for four days per week.
The judge therefore ruled that Ethan should live with his father permanently and that Ms Minnock would only be able to spend time with her son under supervision.
Ms Minnock then took her son into hiding. Local police were unable to locate the two so Judge Wildblood allowed the media to report their names to help with the search.
Shortly after Ms Minnock’s name was reported to the public, she contacted The Sun newspaper. She claimed that she and Ethan were “both safe and well and he is very happy”.
Ms Minnock said she “couldn’t bear to leave [her] son” and that she “just felt trapped”. She admitted in her statement to the newspaper that she realised she was “going to be in a huge, huge amount of trouble” for her actions.
Sitting at the Bristol Crown Court on Thursday, Judge Wildblood emphasised “the seriousness with which the court approaches the task of ensuring, if at all possible, that both parents maintain an effective relationship with the child”.
He also addressed the widespread media attention the case has received and expressed gratitude for the “dramatic effect” it was having.
The judge added that Mr Williams “ran out of money entirely” over the course of the care proceedings. This was “understandable” because he had been “legally represented at his own cost through these proceedings which have gone on for a long time”.
Speaking to the media this week, Mr Williams expressed his concern for his son and his desire to see him returned.
Last night, Ms Minnock also contacted the Daily Mail, and repeated her claim that Ethan was doing very well.
“People probably think I’m mad for what I’ve done but I’m really realistic. I know I can’t do this for ever”, she admitted.
Photo of Bristol by Harshil Shah via Flickr