Cases Archive

12th Jul 2024

The Mother v The Father [2024] EWFC139

Alex Aspinwall appeared for the applicant father in a final hearing set against significant findings of domestic abuse (made at a a fact-finding hearing reported as The Father v The Mother [2023] EWFC 124). The Final Hearing was listed for 4 days and saw cross-examination of two expert witnesses who both gave evidence in support of letterbox contact. Alex sought to persuade the court to make an order for long-term supervised contact and was critical of the professional evidence before the court. He pointed to the section 7 officer seeming to apply a test of ‘fairness’ (as opposed to welfare) and argued that both experts were too absolutist in their conclusions on the father. Both witnesses accepted that they may have been overly absolutist but stuck to their recommendations.ewfc_2024_139

The court made an order that the father be limited to letterbox contact only. Findings were made in respect of his insight and ability to safeguard the children if further contact were to be ordered. The court pointed to Alex’s helpful summary of the law as reproduced at annex 2 of the judgment.

21st Jan 2022 | [2022] EWHC 3705 (Fam)

A Local Authority v DZ & Ors

24th Nov 2023 | [2023] EWHC 2996 (Fam)

XK v JY

Alex Aspinwall appeared on behalf of the respondent mother in proceedings brought pursuant to article 12 of the Hague Convention 1980 for summary return of a child to Slovakia. The mother opposed the application and relied on the defence set out in article 13(b) of the Convention.

Alex succeeded in establishing the grave risk of harm (limb one of the test) but the court found that sufficient protective measures existed in Slovakia to mitigate any risk to the mother and child.

Please see here for the judgment.

18th Jul 2019 | [2019] EWHC 3099 (Fam); Bailii

D v O

14th Sep 2023 | Bailii

Surrey CC and LV and FM and A, B & C [2023] EWFC 186

Jay Banerji represented the Mother in an important case on unknown causation where an infant had sustained a skull fracture. No findings were made against the parents, and the proceedings were dismissed.

10th May 2023 | [2023] EWFC 124

The Father v The mother (Re A-M & Anor)

Alex Aspinwall (for the father) and Robin Powell (for the mother) appeared in a fact-finding hearing concerning allegations of abuse made by the respondent mother. The mother raised 39 separate allegations to advance a case of controlling and coercive behaviour dating from the parties first meeting until separation. The court determined that it would only hear evidence in relation to 14 of those allegations. The father, in turn, alleged a pattern of controlling and coercive behaviour directed against him. He submitted that the children’s removal from the jurisdiction was part of a wider plan to freeze him out of their lives.

Evidence was given over the course of 4 days and counsel made submissions on (a) the proper approach to considering evidence of controlling and coercive behaviour in light of the decision in Re H-N & Ors [2021] EWCA Civ 448, (b) the approach to Lucas directions following A, B and C [2021] EWCA Civ 451 and (c) the credibility of each party and weight to be given various pieces of evidence presented to the court.

Please see here for the judgment. The court’s findings are set out at [124]. 10 findings were made against the father.

5th Jan 2023 | [2023] EWCA Civ 1

Re S (A Child) & W (A Child) (s20 Accommodation)

The case is reported in Bailii here.

Joan represented the appellant mother in an appeal to the Court of Appeal which argued that it can be right to use s20 accommodation for the long-term care of a child and that in suitable cases it is not necessary for the local authority to hold a s31 order. Joan, led by Deidre Fottrell KC was successful in arguing that the court at first instance was wrong to conclude that a child should be placed in long-term care under a care order when it was clear that the parents had no intention of disrupting the placement and agreed that residential care was the best option for their child. Cases in which the courts criticised local authorities for the improper use of s20 were distinguished. The case is important as parents retain parental responsibility on an equal footing to the local authority if the child is accommodated under s20 rather than a s31 order being made, strengthening the parents’ ability to advocate for their child and putting the parents and local authority on an equal footing.

This point is made in the article written by Joan and Tatiana Rocha which examined the case of Re S and its implications for other similar cases: “Putting parents on a level playing field: when is s20 appropriate for the long-term care of a child?”  A copy of the article can be found on this link: