Runaway mother faces contempt of court proceedings

family law

A mother who generated national headlines when she went into hiding with her son in defiance of a court order now faces contempt of court proceedings.

Rebecca Minnock, from Somerset, disappeared with her three year-old Ethan after a court ordered that he live with his father full time. This had followed her failure to cooperate with a previous court order that she share care of Ethan with his father Roger Williams. She had also made a number of serious allegations about Mr Williams, but all were found to be unfounded by the courts.

Ms Minnock spoke to the national media during her 17 days in hiding, before eventually handing herself into the authorities. She and her family were strongly criticised by His Honour Judge Wildblood for engaging in a “publicity stunt” and attempting to “manipulate the press to their advantage”.

Mr Williams has now launched committal proceedings against his former partner, meaning he has asked the courts to consider whether or not she should be sent to jail for her defiance of the court orders.

Both a preliminary directions hearing and full hearing on Mr Williams’ application are due later this week. Both will be held in public at Bristol Family Court.

Courtroom image by Michael D Beckwith via Flickr

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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12 comments

Anon - June 23, 2015 at 5:16pm

Hopefully, the court asks Mr Williams does he have any other evidence of his invovement with his son other than the one photograph shown in all the newspapers for him to be believed he has been a good, interested father, other than just paying maintenance

Vanya - June 23, 2015 at 8:47pm

Why are Cafcass not working with them to resolve the issues and come to an agreement that suits the little boy- children need both parents iin their lives if they are to grow up happy and stable. Family courts need to be overhauled and brought into millennium with younger judges who have a better understanding of the issues facing families today. Times have changed but unfortunately most family judges seem to be stuck in a time warp. This case is all too common today and something we are seeing more of . The father may think he has won but sending the mother to jail is not the answer and certainly not helpful long term as it will cause a rift with the son later on. I feel for the mother. These parents need to co- parent for their sons sake but the court case is fueling more animosity and feelings of hatred that will get worse over time.

Dr. Nigel Miles - June 24, 2015 at 12:22pm

Well written Vanya. I totally agree with you. Society has moved on especially since the Children’s Act of 1989, a generation ago|

However, this is the whole point of this fundamental situation.

Certain parents of the 3.8 million children (Office of National Statistics, 2008 and 2015) who promote children resisting contact (to what ever level – Woodall K. 2014, Centre for Separated Parents) are acting as spoilt teenagers….”its mine, no its mine” attitude. Rather than delving into the cause we are only seem to looking at resolving, the effect.

One fundamental paradigm to change this is to make therapeutic mediation a part of resolution when partners separate who have minor children, but this has to be a legal reality too. This could be part of the enaction when a Responsible Parity (Equality) of Parenting Act or Schedule or added as an amended (CAP???) Schedule within the current Children and Families Act (2014) is made legally binding. Courts will support this fully and with the President of the Family Courts almost thrusting this reality into our throats at the end of April 2015, it requires now ONLY PUBLIC PRESSURE AND THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THIS LEVEL OF ABUSE TO CHILDREN IS UNACCEPTABLE IN OUR CIVILIZED SOCIETY. Parental responsibility is certainly not being enacted as it should but could be.

Being part of a unified family even on separation is the goal for all children in the UK (in total). Nothing will be resolved without a crisis, until this enaction occurs. Help to make this legal reality is the only option. It is really about the best interests of children and all in our families across our society. This has become a debacle. Even our local CAB are seeing this debacle every day and want it stopped.

Currently parents do not have the legal right to engage unconditionally with their children (and in a responsible manner,) this is only an assumption (Strasbourg Accord), At present the State only has this right and in certain conditions is correct).

I hope these comments help because only a legal change will stop this scandal developing into the debacle it has now become and will continue to do so unless addressed in this manner.

Thanks and best wishes for your mature and sane input.

Nordic - June 23, 2015 at 9:04pm

Why does it need Mr Williams to launch proceedings for contempt of court? Surely the court should instigate those proceedings itself. If courts don’t take their own orders seriously, nobody else will.

Yvie - June 24, 2015 at 5:42am

Good point Nordic – I did read that the Judge was leaving it up to Mr Williams to decide whether his ex. should be prosecuted. I found it hard to believe what I was reading. Surely that is a matter for the Judge alone?

Dr. Nigel Miles - June 24, 2015 at 12:44pm

I dont want to over blog on this issue but yes it could be that your opinion is correct, but this is where Family Law and the interpretation of the various Children’s Act including the well known 1989 is constantly cited. It is not for a Judge to make an issue binding. Often when it is not enacted it is an assumption of civilised behaviour which should be actioned.

The case of little Ethan’s Dad considering committal proceedings. Oh dear. He will be playing into the hands of the aggressive feminist league who will see a poor mother having the indignity of being taken to Court over such a silly issue, as they might think? I wonder what Ms. Harmon and May will think and act if at all.

This whole issue is political. Ken Clarke as Justice Secretary wanted Parity Parenting enacted but he was given the boot by the aggressive feminist league of politicians. This is the ONLY reason why such enaction was diluted to CAP within the Children and Families Act (2014). Come on let us all get real!

When all our fair ladies in England and Wales understand and are mature enough to correct the “aggressive fems” to grow up and learn that men have the same capabilities to parent as the womenfolk, then the law will be changed. What do you want? Time in the HOC to waste on bringing back sadistic hunting with hounds or time to enact and protect children to be brought up with love and care in engaging and responsible families. It is your and every one else’s choice!

Nordic - June 24, 2015 at 6:14pm

Nigel, I think you are in for a long wait. This jurisdiction is already decades and decades behind many other North Western European countries when it come to attittudes towards gender roles within our legal system and yet there are no signs of meaningful change. Our “fair ladies”, at least those who were first wives as well, hugely benefit from the current biased system which effectively has become an exclusive club for them. If change is to happen, it must come from the (much larger) constituency comprised of those who suffer from the archaic practices and attitudes which dominate our family law. Hence, in addition to children themselves, the fathers, the second wives, modern self-supporting women, parents and grand parents who witness the destruction brought upon their children and grand children.
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I understand Mr. Williams’ decision to drop the case, but the court should of course have taken action to protect its own power and the integrity of its orders. In its failure to act, the court effectively condoned abduction. The same lenient approach is at the heart of the more general problem of contact denial. In the Nordics, contact denial has well defined and immediate unpleasant consequences for the violating parent. The end result is not that Nordic parents root away inside jail cells. The end result is that such violations, although not unknown, are far less of an issue than here.
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In not taking action against Ms Williams, the court undermined the family law system and in doing so, failed to act in the interest of the many children that in the future will suffer from abductions and contact denial. Our family law hardly contains any real meaningful law and what little law does exist is ignored by the courts themselves. They are an instrument of chaos, not law.

Yvie - June 24, 2015 at 2:12pm

Apparently dad has dropped proceedings against the mother. Smart move on dads part I think !

Name Witheld - June 24, 2015 at 2:12pm

I as a Grandmother involved within a Family Court Case still have a letter threatening me with contempt of court and prison sentence from the solicitor acting for my Grandson (also partner in the firm of solicitors that had the contract to act for LA involved) for searching outside help for my grandsons covered-up condition Cereral Atrophy, due to hospital covered-up birth negligence.
Looking back I wish I had forced her hand into doing what she threatened, instead of letting her threaten me into silence

JamesB - June 25, 2015 at 12:18pm

He should get the money that the daily mail paid to her.

Dr. Nigel Miles - June 25, 2015 at 9:42pm

Thank you for your input.
Yes in many ways you are correct. But the concern as mentioned by Nordic et al is that we need all in society to understand as you make it quite clear in other European countries that breaking a Court Order has custodial ramifications. Don’t forget we do have quite a lot of people in prison in the UK (incl England and Wales) so how many more Mums and Dads who are in contempt, including those who lie on Affidavit and perjure themselves in Court especially and not only the applicant but also Public Servants by should be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, (especially those knowingly pervert the course of justice and can be detained indefinitely????) So yes bring it on.
But it is not as simple as this. I have been told by my CAB colleagues that this issue has been going on since as long as or even well before the Children’s Act of 1989. The issue is about rights for the benefit of all our children to be living happily with everyone in their families. What is stopping this? Politics, pure and simple.
What should happen and how do we ensure that those who do not wish balance in society as aforementioned can be contained so that justice and rights prevail?
To change the situation is political; legislation. Current legislation cannot make intractable “parents” become mature and balanced. By making them realise that they will lose custody of their child/ren, but the carrot and stick will effect the change. Many will need psychiatric support but so be it!
We have to be mature enough to play by the moral imperative converted to the legal. Responsible Parity of Parenting will enact this and stop this abuse and wasted emotions and monies of what will be unnecessary

Anon - June 26, 2015 at 10:24am

Legislation is the only way forward and it should be 50/50 as the default. CSA legislation in its present form encourages confrontation between the parents. Unfortunately no government seems to have the political will to change the status quo as it would risk the wrath of the feminists organisations who continue the push the myth of mothers deserted by fathers leaving them to bring up their children in financial poverty. There are many variations on the plight of parents post-separation however, which are never taken into consideration. In my son’s case, he has a shared residence of his children, not 50/50% unfortunately. However, his costs in maintaining his children are almost the same as his ex. wife’s, yet no government help is available for fathers who share care.. He is a bus driver on a very modest income and for the last three years has paid 25% of his wages to his ex, who is a departmental head of business studies in a large school.

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