Stop Bugging Me! How Not To Behave In Family Court Proceedings

Year Published: 2016

A child at the centre of family court proceedings and a dispute between her parents had listening devices sewn into her clothes by her father in a bid to eavesdrop on her private conversations with her social worker.

The recordings took place over the course of a year without the child’s knowledge and details of these have recently emerged in a ruling by Mr Justice Peter Jackson sitting in the Family Division of the High Court.

The child involved was in the later stages of primary school and lived with her father. The Judge had been asked to decide whether she should remain living with him or whether she should live with her mother. The dispute between the parents was “bad enough” for social services to be involved and for a guardian to be appointed in order to represent the interests of the child.

The involvement of social services led to a number of meetings between them, the child and the appointed guardian. The father and his new partner were determined to find out what the child was saying and to record the comments of professionals. Consequently they stitched bugs into the child’s school blazer and raincoat in the hope that this would maximise the chance of picking up conversations.

Recordings were also made during visits to the home from the social workers and the child’s guardian. The father would then transcribe what he regarded to be pertinent information.

The judge at the High Court, Mr Justice Jackson, said it was almost always likely to be wrong for a recording device to be placed on a child for the purpose of gathering evidence in family court proceedings. He ruled that the child should move to live with her mother and concluded that the father and his partner could not meet the child’s emotional needs as her main carers.

Mr Jackson also stated that “the recordings had damaged relationships between adults in the girl’s life, showed the father’s inability to trust professionals and had created a secret that could affect the girls relationship with her father and his partner.”

Clearly this judgment should serve as a warning to any parent who considers recording their child’s conversations. The father in this particular case lost the care of his daughter as a result of such behaviour. Parents should think carefully about the manner in which they conduct themselves within family court proceedings to ensure that they are acting in the best interests of their child.

For more information on family court proceedings or any other family matter, please contact our Family Law team on 0161 475 7676.

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