A family court judge in Liverpool has been officially reprimanded for his behaviour in court.
Judge Robert Stephen Dodds was twice criticised by the Court of Appeal earlier this year for his approach to a number of cases. In one, a care order had been made for a 13 year-old girl. Her parents applied for this to be discharged but the girl claimed that the man might not be her biological father, so her legal guardian applied for a DNA test to be carried out.
Judge Dodds refused this, making a number of controversial remarks during the hearing. The application was “codswallop” he claimed and he “resented” having to read it. He was inclined to make the child herself pay the costs of the case instead of the Legal Aid Agency, he declared.
The teenager’s legal team successfully appealed. The judge had displayed a closed mind about the case and not given proper reasons for his dismissal of the application, the Court of Appeal concluded, saying appointment as a judge was not a “licence to be gratuitously rude”.
The following day the Court of Appeal overturned another case overseen by Judge Dodds. In this, he had unexpectedly made final orders for three siblings at the very first hearing in the case, just weeks after their local council had made the initial care applications.
The Court of Appeal referred to Judge Dodds’ “caustically expressed views” and said he had apparently made up his mind about the case before hearing “argument or evidence” and again he had failed to properly explain the reasons for his ruling,
Subsequently the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office launched an investigation, following complaints from a local solicitors firm and a number of families who had appeared before Judge Dodds.
Judge Dodds’ conduct of these cases and a third had amounted to serious misconduct, the Investigations Office has now ruled.