The Family Justice Council should examine the use of covert recordings in family cases, the President of the Family Court has declared.
Sir James Munby said the use of covertly recorded conversations as evidence in cases was increasingly common and needed due consideration. The issue arose in a case concerning an 11 year-old girl, whose father claimed her mother had alienated the child from him. The father had made several secret recordings of people involved in the case, including a Cafcass officer and a social worker.
The father sought to appeal a subsequent child arrangements order, claiming bias by the Judge, but he was refused permission to do so on the grounds that he was not arguable in court. He was, however, given permission to appeal a second order that the judgement but be published. This came before Lady Justice King and Sir James Munby.
There the President said that the increasing presentation of secret recordings was due to the widespread availability of easy-to-conceal recording equipment, including mobile phone software. He said such recordings were motivated by:
“… the widespread distrust in too many quarters of the competence or even the integrity of the family justice system and of the professionals involved in it. Here, of course, it is the existence of the mindset rather than its foundation in reality which is the driving force….That said, it needs to be accepted, with honesty and candour, that there have been in recent years in the family courts shocking examples of professional malpractice which have been established only because of the covert recording of the relevant individual.”
The father’s appeal against publication of the order was granted.
Photo by Espacio CAMON under a Creative Commons licence