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Father in breach of court orders sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment

Re E (Judgment and Sentence): A salutary lesson

This sad case, Re E (Judgment and Sentence) is a salutary lesson, not just upon the importance of obeying court orders, but also as to why you should cooperate with the court, no matter what you may feel about the court’s decisions. It is a lesson that has been told many times, and which I will repeat again here.

The case Re E (Judgment and Sentence) is a committal judgment handed down by Her Honour Judge Matthews QC at the Family Court sitting at Middlesbrough back in December.

The case concerned private law court proceedings in relation to three children, all boys, now aged 14, 13, and ten years of age. We are told that:

“There have been a number of private law proceedings passing through this court in respect of the three boys, five in number, largely as a result of father’s unhappiness that he does not have the possession of the children.”

The judgment continues ominously:

“The court has gradually had to restrict father’s contact with the children because of his total inability to comply with court orders.”

And then we have this:

“It would seem that father has never accepted that mother is the main carer of the children and has sought to wrest control back from her with or without the sanction of the court.”

Clearly, a recipe for disaster.

A particular factor in the case relates to where the parents now live. We are told that the family had lived in Wales “many years ago”, but that since the parents separated (the judgment does not say when that was) the mother and the children have lived in the locality of Middlesbrough. The father, meanwhile, lives in the Neath area and has breached court orders by repeatedly retaining them there at the end of the contact.

We are also told that the father willfully refuses to engage with the court, failing to attend hearings, and even remaining outside the courtroom whilst a hearing was taking place.

Committal proceedings

As I said, the judgment relates to committal proceedings. The proceedings were (reluctantly) issued by the mother, for the father’s breach of a prohibited steps order and a child arrangements order.

The prohibited steps order, made in February 2019, restrained the father from removing any of the children from the care of their mother, except for the purpose of contact agreed in writing between the parties or ordered by the court. It also prevented him from removing them from their current school.

The child arrangements order, made in April 2019, provided that all three children should live with their mother until further order. It also provided that the father should only have indirect contact with the children, in the light of his previous failures to return the children at the end of the contact.

Following the making of that order, the father applied to have the children’s living arrangements changed so that they should reside with him. Those applications were dismissed by the court in August.

On the 25th of October, the father removed the eldest child from the care of his mother and took him to Wales. The police were alerted that a child had been abducted, and they stopped the father on the M4 motorway near Newport. The child was found asleep in the car.

The mother then issued the committal application.

The father attended court on the morning of the committal hearing, but when the court adjourned to secure him legal representation he left the court building, in contravention of an instruction that he should remain there. The hearing, therefore, had to proceed in his absence.

Unsurprisingly, Judge Matthews found that the father had willfully and intentionally breached both the prohibited steps order and the child arrangements order. She also noted that the father had made numerous threats to Cafcass and also to the court that he would remove the children from the care of the mother if he did not receive the paperwork that he demanded. In her judgment, he had always had the requisite paperwork in his possession and simply used this as an excuse to attempt to justify his wilful actions in refusing to accept court orders and the fact of the mother’s care and control of the children.

Accordingly, she sentenced the father to an immediate term of nine months’ imprisonment.

You can read the full judgment on the case Re E (Judgment and Sentence) here.

Get in touch

If you would like any advice on the issues raised by the case Re E (Judgment and Sentence), you can find further articles here or please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist children lawyers here.

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, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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