(Family Court, Peter Jackson J, 12 May 2017)
Practice and procedure – Magistrates – Failure to attend - Bench warrant for arrest
The court held that magistrates had the power to issue a bench warrant for attendance at a hearing in proceedings brought under the Maintenance Regulation 2009.
An order made by the Polish court in 2009 ordered the father to make monthly payments to the mother. No payments had been made. In 2014 when the mother believed the father to be living in the UK, she made an application to the Polish Central Authority for enforcement under the Maintenance Regulation.
Despite attempts to trace the father, personal service had not been achieved. The question arose of whether the magistrates had jurisdiction to issue a warrant if the father was served and failed to attend. Peter Jackson J gave guidance on the issue.In cases where the alleged defaulter did not attend, arrangements should be made for the hearing notice to be served personally with a warning attached to the notice that the court may invoke its powers to deal with the defaulter as a contemnor. If there was still no attendance then the magistrates could issue a bench warrant: s 31E Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984; Westwood v Knight  EWPCC 14.