February 14, 2022
This is the re-heard fact finding of one of the conjoined appeals reported as Re H-N  EWCA Civ 448, heard by Mr Justice Cobb.
Cobb J set out his approach in domestic abuse cases such as these, which can be summarised as follows:
The relevant legal principles were:
The court found the mother to have been naïve, unworldly and vulnerable when she met the father. She was distressed and genuinely confused during her evidence. Cobb J found much of her evidence credible and made a number of the findings she sought. He also found she had minimised her use of alcohol and drugs and that some of her evidence was motivated by her wish to demonise the father and times she deliberately misled the court.
The father was found to be `an articulate and ostensibly self-disciplined man, whose evidence was polished and clear’. He was eager to score points against the mother to distract the court from assessing his own evidence. The judge was not convinced by his bare denials. He showed minimal empathy for the mother.
In respect of the Mother’s allegations, the Judge made findings of emotional control and coercion by the father, including by him isolating the mother and gas lighting her by repeatedly falsely telling her and others she had bi-polar disorder, using his occupation in mental health to do so.
None of her allegations of physical abuse were found on the evidence, but the father was found to have taken advantage of the mother’s vulnerability and manipulated events for his own advantage. The father was found to be chauvinistic and insensitive to the mother.
Findings of financial abuse were not made out, but he was said to be thoughtless and uncaring about taking money from the mother, and lacked moral integrity.
Findings were made that the father forced himself on the mother sexually, without caring if she consented, and initiated rough sex that was probably not consensual.
In respect of the father’s allegations it was found both parents were verbally abusive towards each other. When drunk the mother was physically abusive and once threatened the father with a knife. Both parents were equally responsible for that particular incident.
The mother did use contact to control the father, and she became paranoid about the relationship and constantly phoned and text the father in an agitated state.
The specific incidents were viewed as part of a wider pattern of alleged abuse. The court was satisfied that there was an imbalance of power in the relationship and that the father manipulated the mother, was abusive to her in several ways and was selfish, patronising and dismissive of her. His behaviour caused the mother “severe anxiety, depression and trauma.” The Judge found her `self-esteem and sense of worth has been eroded to the point where she could not look beyond the relationship with the father’
The next steps in that case are to consider further evidence now that findings of domestic abuse have been made, in the context of considering the impact upon, and the way forward, regarding the children.
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If you have a family case where you require some advice or representation, please contact Mavis for an appointment with a family solicitor on 020 8885 7986.