We wrote last week about a misleading piece in Byline Times about Afsana Lachaux and the family court litigation she had been involved in. We set out a number of serious errors and omissions from that article that overall gave a significantly distorted impression to the reader. The story painted a picture of a case of profound and inexplicable injustice to a blameless mother at the hands of a sharia court and subsequently an equally unjust ‘British’ court. In our blog post we set out all the things they had got wrong and explained some of the important broader context to the case that was missing from the Byline account.

The next day we spotted a very similar piece in the Daily Mail which presented similar issues.

The Daily Mail make pretty much ALL of the same errors made in the Byline Times piece, which perhaps suggests they are reliant upon the same source, and equally guilty of not fact checking and researching around the subject before running with it. Like Byline, the Mail include a lot of photographs of Afsana Lachaux and her son, and also link to her crowdfunding page.

Here we summarise what is wrong with the Mail Article (but its worth reading our Byline piece for more expansive explanations of the problems) :

  • ‘British’ courts do not exist. The decision complained of was made by the English High Court (subsequently unsuccessfully appealed to the English Court of Appeal and the UK Supreme Court)
  • Highly selective extracts from the reasons given by the Dubai court create a misleading impression : Mail says:

Official translations from the proceedings stated she had ‘not obeyed her husband’ and was a negligent mother because Louis had eczema and she had struggled to breastfeed’.

This is broadly factually accurate so far as it goes : the first bit about obedience is certainly in the translation set out in the judgment of the English court (see our Byline piece), and translation refers to skin disease all over the body (presumably Eczema), albeit that this is described as a consequence of broader neglect. Breastfeeding is not mentioned, but it is possible the transcript is incomplete. What is omitted by the Mail is the significant fact that the mother had kidnapped and hidden the child away from the court for over a year and a half, before custody was transferred.

Continuing our list then…

  • The article completely muddles the sequence of events. The Mail tells us that last year the French Supreme Court (we assume this means the Cour de Cassation, the French Constitutional court) ruled against recognition of the Dubai divorce and that this then ‘encouraged’ Mrs Lachaux to try and seek a similar judgment in the UK with a view to her improving her situation vis a vis her son Louis. In fact the decision of Mr Justice Mostyn that the article complains of was delivered in March 2017, before the French appeals had concluded. We know this because when Mrs Lachaux unsuccessfully appealed Mostyn the Court of Appeal here specifically say so (See para 9 of their judgment here). Possibly the Mail mean to say that the French Court of Appeal decision encouraged her to make the application that Mostyn rejected, but the article wrongly suggests that the French decision was at a higher level than it was. It isn’t actually clear to us what the Cour de cassation actually concluded in the end, but it certainly didn’t make any decision prior to Mrs Lachaux coming to law in the UK.
  • The article does mention that Mrs Lachaux had appealed Mostyn’s decision to the Court of Appeal and that her appeal failed. It doesn’t mention that she subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court, and that this also failed in March of this year (permission to appeal was refused because there was no arguable point of law). Particularly given that the article is a springboard upon which Mrs Lachaux evidently has been raising further crowdfunded money to pursue an appeal against the decision of Mr Justice Mostyn and / or to pay the costs she is now faced with (which might partly be a result of her numerous unsuccessful appeals) this is a rather significant omission. Mrs Lachaux appears to have exhausted all domestic remedies in the UK – there can’t be any further appeal, unless she were to make an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (although it is possible that there is a distinct judgment from Mostyn on the costs issue which could be appealed, though it would almost inevitably be massively out of time).
  • A human rights lawyer (who doesn’t seem to have been involved in the case before the English Family Court according to the record) is quoted as saying that ‘in upholding the Dubai judgment, the courts weren’t even required to conduct a full hearing’. However, the published judgment of Mr Justice Mostyn tells us this :

I heard the case over four days. The mother and father gave oral evidence, as did a consultant psychiatrist instructed as an expert by the mother. Both the mother and father were extensively cross-examined. No stone was left unturned.

The human rights lawyer is wrong, and in adopting his quote without reference to the publicly available facts so is the Mail.

  • What the Mail also neglect to tell the reader is that there is a significant history of other litigation about or involving this couple, including defamation proceedings that went all the way to the Supreme Court when certain newspapers published allegations that Mr Lachaux had been domestically abusive to Mrs Lachaux, which ultimately within the defamation proceedings the newspapers do not appear to have even tried to defend as truthful, probably at least partly as a direct consequence of the damning findings made by Mr Justice Mostyn against Mrs Lachaux at the conclusion of that 4 day trial, rejecting broadly similar claims of abuse she was making in the family court. The Lachaux defamation Supreme Court case was a significant test case of great interest to journalists and newspaper editors alike, and it is almost inconceivable that the Mail were not aware of its existence or the connection.

Since our original blog post and tweets to both publications neither has responded or made any corrections. We will be complaining both to the Mail and Byline Times.

Featured image: Royal Courts of Justice  –  before the lockdown. @slilin on Flickr, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)