John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Friday, September 06, 2013
  It looks like imprisonments have dropped by 90% since secrecy stopped (Another suspended committal)
This case was added to Bailii yesterday more than three months after the hearing. The hearing was a month after the new rules came in. It is clear that some of the judges are not very good at following the rules in a timely manner. With the Derby case we knew about it and had raised it at a more senior level. Historically there were around 60 actual committals per year. The rate we know about is much lower than this. The government, however, refuse to record what number of people are sent to prison. Hence there is no proper accountability on this as it remains possible for someone to be imprisoned in secret and it not to be known. This, to be fair, is something the government should deal with.

Before 3rd May in 2013 there were Garry Johnson, Mike Clarke (in public) - on the run in spain) and a grandmother in I think Barnsley that I know about that were actually given committals.
Since then the published judgments are: (to the best of my knowledge)
Conrad v Bignell [2013] EWCC 2 (Fam) - suspended hearing 3rd June, bailii 5th September.
Re: Roberts [2013] EWCC 1 (Fam) - suspended hearing 19th June on Bailii 15th August. JFF assisted the father here and we had a dialogue with the court administration explaining their interpretation of the rules was wrong which was confirmed by a further practice direction.
North Tyneside v Kornas this was the first one after the new direction and we highlighted it with the court service and the judgment went up really quickly.
There were I think a couple of cases where the alleged contemnor was not given any sanction. One handled by JFF and one in front of Munby P. I don't think the one we handled has been published.
I only find 1 actual imprisonment in this. (Accepting I don't have an exhaustive list necessarily) Even if we said that only May, June and July are likely to result in committals this would only give an annual rate of 4 which is less than 10% of the figures previously given by the Official Solicitor.

(9th September) I have now seen a couple of judgments for committals before 3rd May. This is of course, good practice, but is not a requirement under the practice direction.
Islington v Eddie Ramsay11th April 2013 - it is about the whereabouts of the 13 year old son of Mr Ramsay who is quoted in the judgment as saying"He he meant that he was safe when he was not in the hands of the Police, the Local Authority or Z and he said that he must therefore be safe, because he considered he was in significant danger if he was in their clutches. He told me that X was not a little child and that he, X, had removed himself from significant danger. The judge locked up his father for 1 1/2 months (a 3 month sentence half suspended) because he wouldn't say where his son was.
Islington v JACQUELINE WILLIAMS is where the boys mother is locked up (I presume because she is found guilty of contempt) for refusing to say where he is.
These cases do cause me concern as the care system is known to be really bad for children and I have seen others (Deborah Paul) where the care system was just doing harm to the child. The parents are doing what they see as their duty in protecting the child from maltreatment by the state. The child himself absconded. I ask what the system thinks it is doing. Obviously I don't know enough about the background, but it seems that the parents are being punished for challenging the system rather than doing anything that is of any harm to a child.

Presidents Circular of 3rd August

This one:
Joyce v Joyce [2013] EWHC 1353 (Fam)
Was published on 20th September although the case was in May.



Court of Appeal
LR Children [2013] EWCA Civ 1129 which is a case in the court of appeal the identity of which is very easy to work out is oddly enough anonymous in the court of appeal. The imprisonment was in February so the original imprisonment does not fail on the later practice directions. There is an interesting point in that the interplay between family and criminal proceedings does actually give a good reason for delaying the announcement of the contempt committal although it was futile anyway as he was already in jail and it had no effect. It does, however, conflict with the anonymity in other cases.

Button v Slama [2013] EWHC 2972 (Fam) is interesting in that it continues the imprisonment of a father who has been in jail since January 2012 because he won't get his child returned from Egypt. Doesn't count as an additional case towards the historical 60pa.

Brian and Patricia Davies [2013] EWHC 3294 (Fam)
Note also the 11th October secret imprisonment.
Ball v Shepstone [2013] EWCC 7 (Fam)
An anonymous judgment in December L County Council v MD and ID 2013.

 
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