A curious article appeared in the Telegraph this week, headlined :

Wonder of mobile internet means I can deal with cases on the move, top family court judge says

It details the fact that Top Judges have opposable thumbs and are able to operate an iphone, just like ordinary human beings. This is news?

Sir James Munby said he got an email from barrister Janet Bazley QC on May 26 after leaving Chester, got emails from court office staff in London as he headed south, then sent an email to Ms Bazley while on a platform at Reading waiting for a connection.

The judge has outlined detail of his working journey in a written ruling on the case.

What is more striking is that The Telegraph have chosen to lead with this aspect of a judgment which contains far more newsworthy content, with huge amounts of human interest. Because this is the case or Re W (W (A Child : No 4) [2017] EWHC 1760 (Fam) (10 July 2017)), the very sad case involving a little girl who earlier this year was made the subject of an adoption order against the wishes of her father, after a protracted legal battle. The case described by The President as “a very complex and worrying case…by some margin the most difficult and concerning case of its type I have ever been involved in”.

The unusual feature of this case was that the father was and is caring for his other 3 children, and the court approving adoption of this fourth child had made a flawed decision at the start. That decision was overturned on appeal, the case was reheard by a High Court Judge who also made a flawed decision. By the time this had all happened and the case came before the Top Top Family Judge Sir James Munby, the child had already been long placed and settled with her (prospective) adoptive family and (brutally summarising the very complex litigation) it was just too late to tun the clock back for this little girl. This judgment is the fourth judgment of this judge, Sir James Munby (and that’s ignoring the judgments of other Judges and the Court of Appeal). Sir James said in Judgment number 3 (the main judgment) that

…this litigation has been proceeding for an unusually long time. To say that it has proceeded in an unsatisfactory manner would be understatement on a grand scale. The simple fact, which demands explicit acknowledgment, is that the system has failed W, her siblings, her father and mother and Mr and Mrs A, on a scale which although, happily, unique in my experience – no comfort, of course, to those involved – must be profoundly concerning to anyone and everyone involved in the family justice system. The delay for W has been deplorable. And the terrible reality, and there can be no shrinking from this, is that this delay – I am referring here to the delay down to the hearing before me, not to the very regrettable further delay, for which I apologise, since I reserved judgment – has, in the event, been determinative of the outcome; an outcome which might perhaps (I emphasis, might) have been different had the case been resolved sooner.

That’s pretty newsworthy we think. And what this judgment number 4 is really about is that after the adoption order was finally made by Sir James Munby, and just as the father’s appeal against it had been refused by the Court of Appeal, it was discovered that the adopters were about to move to the USA, thereby frustrating what little hope the father had of direct contact with the child even after the adoption (which the adopters had indicated they were committed to). Effectively it was argued that the Judge had been misled by the adopters about their plans if the order were granted. The father’s lawyer had emailed the judge urgently to try and get him to reopen the matter. The attempt failed. We think that this is probably something the readers of The Telegraph might have been at least as interested in as the nuts and bolts of the IT. In fairness to The Telegraph, the bare facts are sketched, but the highly unusual and very sad nature of this case is not really drawn out and the headline would certainly give the browsing reader no clue. A very curious piece.

We wrote about the earlier stages of Re W here.

Feature pic : Erica Minton on Flickr (Creative Commons licence – thanks!)