Tuesday, October 07, 2008

In the matter of M and N (Children): Another warning

It is not uncommon that parties involved in family proceedings are also involved in other court proceedings that may have a bearing upon the outcome of the family proceedings. In In the matter of M and N (Children) [2008] EWHC 2281 (Fam), reported yesterday, Mr Justice Munby details two cases "which proved abortive because of the failure of those acting for a parent in private law family proceedings properly to engage themselves with and to ascertain what was going on in the parallel immigration proceedings in which their client was involved", and gives a warning to the profession that: "Future shortcomings may be met with more severe and more public consequences". I won't go into the details of the two cases, but he concludes with advice for parents and practitioners "in cases where a parent in family proceedings is also involved in some other relevant matter – for example, an asylum or immigration dispute with the Home Office, criminal proceedings or a criminal investigation, a housing dispute, etc". In particular: "Practitioners acting for the parent in the family proceedings have an ongoing duty to remain au courant with what is going on elsewhere even if the other matter is being handled by other professionals".

Not for the first time recently (see In re X and Y (Bundles): A warning) we have been warned.


  1. Interesting reading. The facts of both cases are far from unusual, and I'm frankly rather surprised that someone as experienced in immigration proceedings as Munby J would think that anyone would expect the Home Office to work within the timetable of a given family case, no matter how fundamentally important it was to those concerned.

    A warning to family lawyers that they can't afford to let us immigration practitioners get away with not disclosing everything necessary and even that family lawyers should somehow be keeping an eye on what the immigration lot are doing.

    A tad impractical, and I say that as someone who does a bit of both areas of work.

  2. Good point. Is Mr Justice Munby living in an ideal world?

  3. Good point, yes. I think the need for more disclosure lies with the family practitioners. Maybe they feel constrained by the general restraints on disclosure associated with child care matters.

    His lordship might consider working out standard directions, or promoting a new PD to deal with the tension between family and immigration proceedings.

    Oh, and at the risk of not being coup de la, his lordship might try to make himself au courant with the preference for the use of plain English in the Courts.

  4. Thanks. Like your last point especially - clearly, his Lordship is not au courant with plain English!


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