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(Court of Appeal, Ward, Richards, Patten LJJ, 30 October 2012)
Conjoined appeals were brought by non-resident parents who had all been committed to prison although on suspended terms for failure to meet their maintenance obligations as assessed by the CMEC and the CSA. The appellants claimed that s 39A of the Child Support Act 1991 was not compliant with the Human Rights Act 1998 and did not afford them the right to a fair trial as guaranteed by Art 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950.
Default maintenance assessments had been made in respect of both appellants but neither had sought to have that assessment revised.
The appeals would be allowed and the orders for commitment set aside. A procedure properly applying s 39A of the CSA 1991 would be fully compliant with European Convention requirements, however, due to deficiencies in the process in respect of the two appellants their rights to a fair trial had not been protected.