F v M: Protection against self-incrimination does not extend to private law proceedings

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This is just a short
post to mention a short point arising in the on-going child arrangements case F v M.

Back in January Mr Justice Hayden handed down a judgment in relation to a fact-finding hearing concerning allegations made by the mother of abuse by the father. The findings were damning, as summarised in the latest judgment, and included the following:

1. That the applicant father coercively controlled the respondent mother throughout the relationship by preventing her access to ante-natal care, isolating her from her family, friends and peers, controlling her money and food and deliberately curtailing her freedom, also amounting to emotional abuse.

2. That the applicant father raped the respondent mother, probably on more than one occasion, during their marriage.

3. That the applicant father’s conduct during the relationship resulted in the older child being exposed to emotional harm.

The latest judgment concerns an application by the father for a determination that nothing should be disclosed to the police in respect of any written statements made by him in which he makes any admissions in respect of the court's findings of abuse.

Various arguments were put forward in support of the father's application, but the main one was that the father should be afforded similar protection against self-incrimination as a parent in public law proceedings, pursuant to s.98 of the Children Act.

Hayden J did not agree. The consequences of a public law order were more draconian than a private law order, and hence in public law proceedings "the legislation strains to afford every opportunity to a parent to work openly and honestly with the process." S.98 was confined to public law cases for good reason, and it is not open to a judge to extend a provision beyond that which Parliament intended.

Accordingly, Hayden J refused to make the order sought by the father.