COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)
ON APPEAL FROM LLANGEFNI COUNTY COURT
(HIS HONOUR JUDGE M FARMER QC)
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE STANLEY BURNTON
SIR WILLIAM ALDOUS
|IN THE MATTER OF P (CHILDREN)|
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Miss G Lord (instructed by Edward Hughes) appeared on behalf of the Respondent Mother.
Mr G Jones (instructed by Elwyn Jones & Co) appeared on behalf of the Respondent Children.
Crown Copyright ©
Lord Justice Ward:
"I accept her account of this incident and the effect of this incident on herself and her children."
"The children's Guardian shall forward to the father copies of any school reports received by the children at the end of this academic year, such reports to be edited so that the identity of the school is omitted."
"a) the court had today intended to give judgment in support of the decision announced in principle on 10th August 2007;
b) the court considers further investigation of the childrens wishes and feelings is required in the light of the statement today filed by the mother; and
c) as a consequence of a) and b), the court is no longer able to deliver judgment as intended, on the basis that the further evidence may affect the decisions announced in principle."
"The children look to her for cues, and she is, in my view, communicating to them consciously or unconsciously her reluctance to commit wholeheartedly to a resumption of contact. In my view she is tired with the current situation and I do not believe that she is deliberately prolonging it."
He was critical of her, saying:
"Her unilateral action in thwarting contact has not helped, and her insistence upon the involvement of the Domestic Violence Intervention Project may not be the panacea that she thinks it is."
"In my opinion, it would be of benefit to the children if [Mr P] would agree to undertake counselling to address the issues that I believe he is struggling to terms with, such as the feelings of anger towards [Mrs P] in relation to the loss of his home, family etc. In my view, it would also be helpful if he would agree to address his underlying attitudes towards [Mrs P], although realistically at present I have reservations about his motivation to change. [Mr P] could access the services of organisations such as DVIP or [and it is important to emphasise 'or'] Relate. I will hopefully be able to provide the court with more information about the possible counselling services at the Hearing on 22 March 2007. I would recommend that if [Mr P] wishes to act in the long term best interests of the children that he does access such a service.
16. I am of the opinion that if [Mrs P] could be reassured that [Mr P] was at least beginning to consider the impact of his behaviour on her and ultimately the children she would be more supportive and encouraging of the children with regard to contact with their father."
That was apparently discussed during the hearing on 22 and 23rd, but neither party then appears to have been willing to move towards any form of therapy, counselling or mediation.
"He was fed up with his father and fed up with the contact centre"
"I was surprised by Jo's stated views as he has consistently said he wished to have contact with his father at the contact centre."
So here again Mrs Holmes is demonstrating her impartiality and her surprise. She met Jo again, and disturbingly paragraph 12 recites more of what the boy feels; and in these cases one cannot ignore what the children feel, for their feelings are real and govern their actions. How the feelings are implanted is another matter, but the judge has to take account of feelings of children because the Children Act requires him to do so insofar as their wishes and feelings are capable of having weight given their age and understanding.
"[Jo] told me it would be a big worry for him that his father might not bring him and [Ju] back if they had unsupervised contact with him. [Does this hark back to January 2006?, I ask rhetorically] He told me that even if the Judge made his father promise that he had to return them he did not think his father would listen. Jo repeated that he was also worried that his father would shout or hit him if he said something his father did not like. He said if his father shouts or smacks him 'I curl up and get small and hide my face.'"
"I curl up I get small and hide my face", from the mouth of an eight- or nine-year-old, whatever he was. How sad that he should say if his father shouts or smacks him he curls up, so there are obvious problems in this family. He did say if the court had decided that contact should continue at the contact centre he might have continued seeing his father and certainly would not have panicked as much, an important observation. Ju thought contact was OK; Gi was the least emotionally affected by the parental dispute.
"b) They do not like their father being angry with them.
c) They do not like their mother being upset.
d) They do not want unsupervised and/or any direct contact with their father."
"Whilst both of these options would provide some emotional respite from ongoing Court proceedings for the children, neither of them addresses the underlying issues of the parental dispute that have been present throughout these proceedings. It would in my view ultimately be in the best interests for [Mr P] to have counselling in relation to the issues outlined in the Welfare Report dated 15 March 2007 and for [Mrs P] to then have counselling to assist her in supporting contact."
"…it seems to me that the issue of contact needs to be reconsidered. The current position, with the children all expressing reluctance to have unsupervised contact, is far from satisfactory. But I see no alternative to accepting the harsh reality of that situation. To expose the children, against their wishes, to a regime of direct contact would, in my judgment cause them enormous distress and potentially prejudice any development in the future towards direct contact from indirect contact. I see no reason why there should not be reasonable indirect contact on the basis posited in the order which I indicated I propose to make in August of 2007."
And then he added as the last sentence of his judgment:
"I agree with Mrs Holmes that it would be helpful if both parents were to engage in counselling, and would be willing to hear submissions about that issue if necessary, and to amend my order if necessary."
Lord Justice Stanley Burnton:
Sir William Aldous:
Order: Appeal allowed