Refusing to recognise the authority of the court

family law

Everyone is entitled to a view. And that includes a view on the most basic tenets underpinning our society. Thankfully, we live in an essentially free country where everything is open to question, and that certainly includes the legal system, down to its very essentials, including whether it even has jurisdiction over the lives of the citizens of the country. However, there is a difference between holding views and putting them into practice, particularly where the lives of others may be affected.

Yesterday I wrote here about the phenomenon of compulsive ‘total war’ litigation, where parties use every means at their disposal to get their own way, including constant and repeated applications to the court, and extending the conflict beyond the court, for example to social media. As I explained then, such an approach can be hugely damaging to all involved. Another bad approach is not to engage with the court process, claiming that the court has no jurisdiction to interfere in your life. Now, obviously such an approach is unlikely to go down well with the court and is therefore likely to mean that the outcome of the proceedings will not be what you want. That’s fine – as I said, people are entitled to their own views. But what if others are affected by the proceedings, in particular children? Is such an approach still fine then? I think most would say that it is not.

These thoughts were prompted by reading the recently-published judgment London Borough of Tower Hamlets v H & Another. The judgment related to one hearing in long-running care proceedings concerning a sibling group of eight children, although this particular hearing only concerned one of the children, ‘PJ’. The court had made care and placement orders in respect of PJ and five of her older half-siblings last November, having already made care orders some months earlier in respect of the other two half-siblings. The intention of the court was that PJ should be adopted. Possible adopters were found and approved, and PJ was placed with them in February. The adopters applied for an adoption order in June, and their application was issued by the court on 26 June.

On the very same day the parents, who were not represented, applied to the court to discharge the care orders in respect of six of the eight children, including PJ. As a placement order had already been made the court could not discharge the care order in respect of PJ. However, the parents indicated that they had not received the required notice that PJ had been placed with her prospective adopters. In view of this the judge, Her Honour Judge Atkinson, gave the parents 14 days to either take legal advice or to issue an application for a judicial review of the actions of the local authority.

What caught my eye about the judgment, though, was the attitude of the parents to the proceedings, as explained by Judge Atkinson.

She says:

“They are highly suspicious of anything that the court does, not trusting the process. During the course of this hearing they have indicated on more than one occasion that they do not recognise the authority of the court and have no intention of engaging with the process. I have been told that I have no rights over them and in fact this court is not my court room but rather theirs.”

And she added a comment to the end of her judgment in which she said:

“During the course of this hearing, as I have mentioned above, the parents have tried very hard to indicate that they have no respect for the court or process. For example:

a. They have insisted that they will not answer to their proper names;

b. Father has purported to “serve” me with a “contract” telling me that he has sent it on to my private email address – and that he has addressed it to me in both my work name and my married name;

c. Father has indicated that he has no intention of seeking legal advice “even if we wanted to be part of this system”.”

Needless to say, such behaviour will not turn out well for the parents. It will also, if continued, be doing a great disservice to the child. If there has been a procedural irregularity then everyone owes it to her to ensure that it is properly dealt with.

In fact, as so often in such cases, the parents found themselves in the position of half-engaging with the process, rather than not engaging at all, as they claimed. Only engaging when you want to is common (and surely a betrayal of any firm views about the court not having jurisdiction over you?), but is obviously going to seriously jeopardise your case. In fact, I have to say that Judge Atkinson was very fair to these parents, despite the apparent threat made to her by the father. However, she made it quite clear that if they continue to choose not to fully engage, then the court will have to proceed without them.

The full report of the hearing can be found here.

Photo by YunHo LEE via Flickr under the Public Domain.

John Bolch

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.

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13 comments

spinner - October 4, 2017 at 6:13pm

The reason why I don’t respect the courts or accept their judgement’s is because the longer I was involved with them the more I realised they discriminate against me because of my sex and everyone including the judge was happy to lie in order to skew the case against me and in favour of my ex. Why would anyone agree to be judged by that kind of organisation it wouldn’t make sense. If you fix the institutional sexism within the laws and the court itself and had some accountability for the staff involved so they would not feel comfortable blatantly and openly lying maybe I would cooperate with them and respect their judgements.

Cameron Paterson - October 4, 2017 at 7:02pm

Everyone in the court was lying, including the Judge?? Did you appeal?

spinner - October 4, 2017 at 10:55pm

No because she never enforced any of it.
I got the transcript of the whole hearing because I knew what I had said was the truth and in his summing up and so on he wrote in things that he claimed I had said but I knew I hadn’t because they were not true and on inspection of the transcript I really hadn’t said them. The Judge very clearly lied in writing to skew the case in her favour, the things he lied about were clearly framed and I could see what he was trying to do and how he was doing it by the particular types of lies he told. He was an old guy and I put it down to him white knighting but that is sexist.
So after that experience I know that as a man I won’t be treated fairly by the courts so why should I cooperate with them, respect them or “recognise their authority”.

spinner - October 5, 2017 at 9:54am

Just to add to that yes my ex wife lied a lot and her barrister knowingly misled the court about certain evidence.
Given that we know from statistical evidence the criminal courts are institutionally sexist as in for the same crime men will receive harsher punishments than women I don’t see why it would be that much of a stretch to imagine these family fake courts are institutionally sexist.

Paul - October 5, 2017 at 7:20pm

That was my experience as well. I have not appealed because of the evidence I saw with my own eyes. I would be completely wasting my time. I would give her soliciter the oppertunity to use the ‘extention of harassment’ defence.
It is clear nobody in [name removed] magistrates court wanted me to succeed. If this man says the court and the judge lied to stitch him up in court. I’ve never met him but im inclinde to beleive him. No good thing is happening behind closed doors. (Not a good reputation for the courts). This is an easy image to get for themselves but a hard perception to change.
You don’t have to be as brazzen as lying Cameron. You can edit people/deliberatly squee the way you write or speak in such a way predudice becomes clear. As an editor you should appreciate the control of perspective.
The courts and judges were are lying to secure quick judgements against men. No doubt at all.
I have no faith in a court to deliver anything like justice. What I saw in their has changed my view of everything. It will stay with me forever.
(*Comment moderated)

Paul - October 5, 2017 at 7:34pm

If you had stood in court and witnessed the judges the court an everyone in it blatently ignoring/squeeing every word you had said lying taking every lie from your ex as fact without question.
Why the hell would you appeal ?
You must be absolutly stupid.

Cameron Paterson - October 5, 2017 at 7:41pm

Presumably I’m not meant to take that last line too personally? You’d appeal for precisely the reasons you’ve stated: because you wouldn’t have had a fair hearing and justice would not have been served

spinner - October 5, 2017 at 9:25pm

You make launching an appeal sound easy. After you have been through years of this, seen you family ripped apart, lost pretty much everything to then think about taking on the whole system in an appeal, it’s just not that easy and not something you would do unless you really had no other choice. I know what I am saying about my own case is true and unless someone took some action against me that forced my hand that is enough for me.
Believe it or not having been involved with the courts previously I used to have a pretty neutral to favorable view of the courts and lawyers in general but after having seen what I’ve seen I don’t think you would allow me to write what I truly think of the organisation itself or those who involve themselves in it and profit from it.

David Mortimer - October 5, 2017 at 10:28am

The family courts systematically abuse families at tax payers expense with impunity.

Julie Haines - October 6, 2017 at 6:25pm

“To no man shall we sell justice”

Jason - October 5, 2017 at 8:46pm

I too have had first hand experience of judges, barristers, guardians and others associates with the family courts telling blatant and horrific lies. The family courts are run by old, inexperienced, unprofessional and money grabbing people who are detached from reality, heavily bias in favour of women and unempathetic. Everyone involved in my case except me were women. I never stood a chance and it’s been 3 years since I saw my children. They have been so heavily brainwashed that I fear I have lost them forever. My ex has taken me to court 30 times over 4 years and as she managed to wangle legal aid, and doesn’t work, she is happy for this to continue indefinitely. I onnthe other hand have spent £300k, lost my job, suffer from ill health, have been vilified on social media and lost many of my family and fiends. And over what? Money and rejection! They say justice is blind but isn’t it funny how the statue of justice is a woman!

Peter Davies - October 6, 2017 at 9:58am

When courts do not apply the law and either do not bother to read or ignore case law.

When the application of the law and principles that underpin it such as the ‘delay’ principle i.e. s.1 (2) Children Act 1989 states:
‘In any proceedings in which any question with respect to the upbringing of a child arises, the court shall have regard to the general principle that any delay in determining the question is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.’

When does anyone pay the slightest bit of notice to this?

When compliance with court orders in the family court are widely regarded as optional.

When judges and lawyers blame victims of bad decisions and poor case management for failures to apply the law.

Is it any wonder that ordinary people might be led to believe that their compliance as citizens is also optional?

Does the rule of law apply to everyone or not?

Julie Haines - October 6, 2017 at 4:16pm

It’s going to JR with a barrister. I know who the barrister is. That should silence the critics.

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