Judge seeks to end myth of family court bias against fathers
He therefore welcomed Government
moves towards greater transparency, hoping that they would
"dispel the myth that there is a gender bias against
fathers within the family justice system".
According to this myth, courts
were improperly refusing to let separated fathers have contact
with children who were living with their mothers.
There were certainly cases,
the appeal judge accepted, where the mother's attitude was
the main reason that children had been kept away from their
fathers. "But, in my experience, it is far more common
for contact to break down due to the behaviour of the non-residential
Lord Justice Wall fully expected
that he would be regarded as "biased and time-serving"
by one of the fathers whose case he had just thrown out, so
he took the unusual step of delivering a lengthy, written
David Bradford, the judge concluded,
had "completely lost sight of the principal focus of
the case — the welfare of his son — and had become
wholly preoccupied with what he regards as an ongoing battle
with the mother of his child". But the reason this father
was not seeing his son was nothing to do with what the boy's
mother had done or because of any failure by Judge Hunt, who
had heard the case. The reason was simply "Mr Bradford's
In the case of Shaun O'Connell,
however, Judge Milligan had made remarks at Southampton county
court which the Court of Appeal regarded as gratuitous, though
well-intended. Because of this unnecessary "homily"
from the bench, the case was transferred to a different judge,
Mr Justice Coleridge. But then, in Lord Justice Wall's view,
Mr O'Connell blew it.
"Instead of persuading
Mr Justice Coleridge that he had a case which had been misunderstood
by Judge Milligan, the judge found that Mr O'Connell had clearly
demonstrated that everything Judge Milligan had said about
him was correct."
The children's hostility to
their father, the judge found, related directly to his behaviour
towards them. "They had not been alienated by their mother."