FLINT logo
Families Link International
Tel:0781 886 1724
home | issues | policies | family groups | courts | court reporters | research | law | contacts | donations | Useful Quotes |

Family Groups

Judge seeks to end myth of family court bias against fathers

"For too long the family courts have been the subject of the canard that they administer 'secret justice'," Lord Justice Wall said in the Court of Appeal in September 2006.

He therefore welcomed Government moves towards greater transparency, hoping that they would "dispel the myth that there is a gender bias against fathers within the family justice system".

According to this myth, courts were improperly refusing to let separated fathers have contact with children who were living with their mothers.

There were certainly cases, the appeal judge accepted, where the mother's attitude was the main reason that children had been kept away from their fathers. "But, in my experience, it is far more common for contact to break down due to the behaviour of the non-residential father."

Lord Justice Wall fully expected that he would be regarded as "biased and time-serving" by one of the fathers whose case he had just thrown out, so he took the unusual step of delivering a lengthy, written judgment.

David Bradford, the judge concluded, had "completely lost sight of the principal focus of the case — the welfare of his son — and had become wholly preoccupied with what he regards as an ongoing battle with the mother of his child". But the reason this father was not seeing his son was nothing to do with what the boy's mother had done or because of any failure by Judge Hunt, who had heard the case. The reason was simply "Mr Bradford's behaviour".

In the case of Shaun O'Connell, however, Judge Milligan had made remarks at Southampton county court which the Court of Appeal regarded as gratuitous, though well-intended. Because of this unnecessary "homily" from the bench, the case was transferred to a different judge, Mr Justice Coleridge. But then, in Lord Justice Wall's view, Mr O'Connell blew it.

"Instead of persuading Mr Justice Coleridge that he had a case which had been misunderstood by Judge Milligan, the judge found that Mr O'Connell had clearly demonstrated that everything Judge Milligan had said about him was correct."

The children's hostility to their father, the judge found, related directly to his behaviour towards them. "They had not been alienated by their mother."

The contents on these pages are provided as information only. No responsibility or liability is accepted by or on behalf of FLINT for any errors, omissions, or misleading statements on these pages, or any site to which these pages connect, whether provided by FLINT or by any organisation, company or individual. No mention of any organisation, company or individual, whether on these pages or on other sites to which these pages are linked, shall imply any approval or warranty as to the standing and capability of any such organisations, companies or individuals on the part of FLINT. All rights reserved.