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10 MAY 2012

CONTACT: Re H (Contact Order: Permissibility of Judge's Actions)

(Court of Appeal; Thorpe, Laws LJJ; 3 May 2012)

The parents sought a variation of the contact order. The judge allowed further time for negotiations after a discussion with all three counsel where it was agreed the matter could be dealt with by way of submissions only. The guardian reported that the child wished for contact to commence on Saturday morning, instead of Friday night, as he wanted to spend time with the mother. The judge approved that arrangement and the father appealed on the basis that the discussion between counsel and the judge had constituted a breach of his rights under art 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the judge had focused on only one aspect of the welfare checklist.

The father's appeal was dismissed. The judge's approach was sensible and consistent with the general approach of trial judges in court when faced with lengthy negotiations that threatened to prevent completion of contested issues in the time permitted. He had heard lengthy submissions from all three counsel and looked at the matter from the proper welfare perspective and had given great weight to the child's wishes.