Judge leaves case because of sailing connection

Family Law|October 12th 2015

A High Court judge has stepped down from a divorce case because of his connection to the world of sailing.

In Mackay v Mackay, Mr Justice Holman and the husband were both members of sailing clubs. While the judge said he did not have “the slightest recollection of ever having met” either of the divorcing couple, he did have a shared friend with the husband.

The friend in question, ‘AB’, was “somebody whom the husband [knew] well”. They met up regularly and he had “stayed at [the couple’s] villa in the south of France whilst participating in a sailing event”. AB had also known the judge for a long time. In his judgment, Mr Justice Holman declared that he was friends with both AB and his wife and said they would “meet from time to time in the sailing social context”.

While there was no application by either the husband or the wife in this case for the judge to recuse himself, Mr Justice Holman said that the connection was enough to consider if he should “have further involvement in this case” or not.

Sitting in the Royal Courts of Justice in London, he described himself as “an independent-minded and fearless judge” who did not doubt his “ability to be detached and objective in decision-making”. That said, he noted that the case involved allegations by the wife that the husband had “deliberately failed to disclose” discussions about the sale of his company. As a result, there was a possibility the judge would have to declare that the husband had “deliberately lied or, certainly, deliberately suppressed the truth” about his financial position.

Mr Justice Holman said that it could cause “personal embarrassment” in his friendship with AB if he had to rule that the husband – another one of AB’s friends – had “acted in a fraudulent, devious or untruthful way”. Rather than face such a prospect, the judge elected to withdraw from the case.

To read the judgment in full, click here.

Photo by Tim Green via Flickr

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