Family law partner, Ayşen Soyer, considers this recent decision of HM Solicitor General v Wong [2023] EWHC 2966 (Fam)

where Cobb J found the defendant to be in contempt of court when he covertly recorded family private law adoption proceedings concerning his child, and then subsequently provided the recording and other information to another in the knowledge that it would be posted on YouTube.

The defendant did not deny what he had done.  He stated that he wanted to be satisfied about the authenticity of the adoption proceedings.

The judge was sufficiently unimpressed by the defendant’s disdainful attitude to the court, and he found the contempt to be so serious that he sentenced him to immediate 4 months imprisonment for recording the family court proceedings (which had been sitting in private) and 4 months for disposing of the recording with a view to publication- both sentences to run concurrently.  The defendant was also ordered to pay costs limited to £5,000.

The judge referred to the Contempt of Court Act 1981, s14 which sets out a range of penalties which may be imposed at the court’s discretion.  He considered that the case had aggravating features, such as the defendant’s blatant disregard of warning signage, that he knew that recording the proceedings was prohibited and threatened to repeat his actions.  This was a deliberate contempt.  The recording publication on YouTube was viewed some 1600 times and the child’s name was clearly repeated throughout.  The defendant cared not a jot that this would be harmful to his child.  He was unrepentant.

Cobb J stated as follows:

The prohibition on recording family proceedings and on publishing certain information relating to family proceedings is vital to the integrity of family proceedings.  The deliberate defiance of the law prohibiting recording and publication of family proceedings involving children must therefore result in substantial punishment. The Defendant, and those who support him (some are observing this hearing on the video-link), or who otherwise come to know of these proceedings and outcome, should be under no delusion about this.

The punishment needs to reflect the court’s profound disapproval when the child is named. I am satisfied that the Defendant acted throughout with no regard for the welfare of his child, scant if any regard for the child’s mother, and no respect for the professionals who run our family justice system with great care. He also had no regard at all for the prospective adopters (now the legal parents) of his child.

If you have a family law case you need assistance with, please contact Mavis on 0202 8885 7986 to arrange for an appointment with a solicitor in the family team.

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