We have already highlighted the views of Sir James Munby, but they bear repeating:
“Other things being equal, swift, efficient, enforcement of existing court orders is surely called for at the first sign of trouble. A flabby judicial response sends a very damaging message to the defaulting parent, who is encouraged to believe that court orders can be ignored with impunity, and potentially also to the child.”
Now, STOPPA asks you to consider your response to ‘flabby’ judicial responses to repeated breaches of court orders…
If a ‘flabby judicial response’ sends the wrong message to the AP, what does our failure to appeal convey to our judges (and of course the AP). Essentially, the same thing. This is why STOPPA recommends appealing all such flabby judicial responses.
Only if we do this will courts start to take notice. And if courts take notice, there is more chance that Parliament will too, as influential judges make their feelings known.
You may ask, rightly: Aren’t appeals just going to delay my case? Well, yes and no…
Certainly, appeals take time to consider. They have to be thought about by a Circuit Judge and then, if you lose and appeal again, by the Court of Appeal (‘CA’). But – the Court of Appeal is a much better place to be than the County Court, as you will have seen from the cases. The CA can order, for example, that your case be handled by a different, better judge – possibly an experienced and robust Circuit Judge, or even a High Court (‘Red’) Judge. Or it may give further and better directions to your current judge about what to do next and what he might do differently.
You may also well ask: Given the fact that applications to enforce court orders rarely succeed, what is the point in appealing? I will fail.
To be honest, this is probably true. But STOPPA asks you to see the bigger picture. The ‘system’ is not going to change until we make it change. One way to do that is to campaign, along the lines that Suella Fernandez is advocating. Or you could join the PAMPA group on Facebook, that is campaigning for change by lobbying MPs directly. But we need a multi-pronged attack against this hopeless family justice system that is not fit for purpose. And STOPPA’s guerrilla tactics will help here. The ‘system’ is close to breaking point – our job is to push it over the edge. Clogging up the higher courts with appeals against ‘flabby’ lower court decisions, will hurt the system.
But aren’t you asking me to spend my own money just to help change the system?
Yes. But it’s not ‘just’ to change the family court system. Changing the system is vital if you, and all targeted parents are to get justice now, and in the future. This approach, combined with the others we have mentioned, is all part of that effort.
Finally, STOPPA would ask you to consider the alternative.
If you do nothing, you are telling your judge that you are content to be fobbed off with delay and inertia, so you will just get more of that – in the end, doing nothing will be much more likely to cause delay, and, as we know, time is the enemy with PA cases.
TOP TIP: STOPPA would encourage all TPs to handle their cases as aggressively as possible.