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Re B (A Child) [2017] EWCA Civ 1579

Decision of the President prohibiting the publication of what was intended to be a guidance judgment by a circuit judge concerning the use of covert recordings in private law proceedings. The President makes preliminary observations about the complexity of this increasingly significant issue and invites the Family Justice Council to consider the question.

An order was made in June 2016 by His Honour Judge Bellamy ("the judge") in private law children proceedings concerning B, a girl aged 11. Both parties were unrepresented, but were assisted by separate McKenzie Friends.

F alleged deliberate alienation by M. He sought to rely on covert recordings made over a number of years, including of conversations with a social worker, Cafcass officer and a solicitor.

The judge invited a number of interested bodies to make written submissions on the use of covert recordings, before delivering a reserved judgment of 166 paragraphs. The judge made two orders. The first was a substantive child arrangements order. The second was for his judgment to be published.

Permission to appeal
F appealed both orders. King LJ dealt with the permission application (reported as Re B (A Child) [2016] EWCA Civ 1088). He was refused permission to appeal the child arrangements order and his complaint that the judge was biased was rejected as unarguable.

He was granted permission to appeal the second order for publication on a ground not raised by him, but which caused King LJ to conclude there was some 'compelling reason why the court should hear the full appeal' (CPR 52.36(b). She listed the permission hearing, with appeal to follow, before the President and her.

The appeal
The President made some preliminary observations about covert recording [§9 to 16]. He pointed to a myriad of issues, very few of which had been systematically considered either at first instance or in the Court of Appeal – notwithstanding the number of authorities on individual elements of the issue:

(1) The issue had become more pressing in recent years with (a) the ever-increasing sophistication and miniaturisation of modern recording equipment [§11] and (b) the widespread distrust by some of the competence or integrity of the family justice system and its professionals.

(2) Although that distrust was often based in a mindset, as opposed to reality, there had been recent and shocking examples of professional malpractice which had been revealed only because of the covert recording of the relevant individual [§12]

(3) There was a distinction between open recording and covert recording; the latter being more problematic. There were at least three categories of covert recording: (a) of children; (b) of family members; and (c) of professionals [§13]. All involved different issues.

(4) With each nature of recording arose the questions of: (a) the lawfulness of the recording; (b) best practice outside of the courtroom; (c) the admissibility of the recording into evidence; and (d) other evidential and practice issues – e.g. disputes about authenticity, or the quality of the recording etc. [§14]

(5) The questions of who was doing the recording and why might well be relevant too [§15].

Although the President would not quibble with much of what the judge had said about this issue in his judgment (ultimately the judge had reached an unimpeachable conclusion on the present case), there were other issues with which he had serious concerns [§20-23]. The issue was too nuanced to set out sweeping statements of general principle and a more detailed analysis of the rules of admissibility was needed.

The President concluded by summarising the variety of ways in which guidance for the family courts is formulated and disseminated. Much of this was the role of the President, or by way of 'guidance judgments' by another judge of the division. However, the latter would very frequently require approval by the President and record such approval in the judgment. In this case, that was not done. [§24-28] With great respect to the judge's "laudable" aims, the President concluded that he had embarked upon a process which he should never have undertaken, in purporting to offer a guidance judgment that was open to serious challenge [§31].

The President considered the available options and concluded that the least inappropriate and unattractive was to give permission to appeal and to allow the appeal, to the extent that the judge's order directing the publication of the judgment would be set aside. A direction was made that the judgment was not to be made publicly available. [§32-33]

Finally, the President invited the Family Justice Council to consider the whole question of covert recording from a multi-disciplinary viewpoint as a first step to considering this topic of growing significance. [§35]

Summary by Tom Dance, barrister, 1 King's Bench Walk

No: B4/2016/2569
Neutral Citation Number: [2017] EWCA Civ 1579

His Honour Judge BELLAMY

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 18 October 2017

Before :

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In the matter of B (A Child)
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Ms Victoria Clifford (instructed by NYAS Legal) for the child's NYAS guardian
The father appeared in person assisted by a McKenzie friend
The mother was neither present nor represented

Hearing date : 10 November 2016
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Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division :

1. This is an appeal in a case which would otherwise be unremarkable, except to the parties. However, it raises a point of no little public importance (though it has no impact on the substantive orders made by the judge), in relation to which my Lady, King LJ, gave directions when the matter came before her, on 13 September 2016, on the father's application for permission to appeal: Re B (A Child) [2016] EWCA Civ 1088.

2. The appeal is from an order made on 23 June 2016 by that careful and always meticulous judge, His Honour Judge Bellamy. He was sitting as a Circuit Judge in the Family Court at Leicester (of which at that time he was the Designated Family Judge; he is now the Designated Family Judge at Derby) hearing private law proceedings between the two parents of a girl born in May 2005. The father was unrepresented but had the assistance of a McKenzie friend, Mr Stuart Graham. The mother was also unrepresented but likewise had the assistance of a McKenzie friend. The child was represented by counsel, Ms Victoria Clifford, instructed by her NYAS guardian.

3. The point which is now before us arose because, as my Lady explained (Re B, para 6):

"The father in support of his case that this was a case of deliberate alienation by the mother, sought to rely on various covert recordings made by him over the years. The judge took the opportunity of inviting a number of interested bodies to make written submissions in relation to the use of covert recordings of interviews and telephone conversations with practitioners. Such an invitation was neither necessary nor relevant to the decision to be made by the judge, and on his own account was intended "to stimulate discussion on the issue out of which perhaps some general guidance might emerge". Mr Graham [he appeared before my Lady as the father's McKenzie friend] points out that some 20 pages of what is a lengthy judgment was concerned with a consideration in the abstract of the use of covert recordings. Mr Graham submits that such an approach was unhelpful and inevitably gave the father the impression that the judge was not focused on his particular case."

These covert recordings were, as the judge explained, of conversations the father had had with a social worker, a Cafcass officer and a solicitor.

4. The judge handed down his reserved judgment on 2 June 2016. It runs to 166 paragraphs. He made two orders. The first, also dated 2 June 2016, dealt with the substantive issues in the case. By the other, dated 23 June 2016, the judge ordered that his judgment be published on the normal terms. His reasons for doing so were set out in a second judgment, running to a further 31 paragraphs, handed down on 24 June 2016.    

5. The father sought to appeal both orders. In relation to the first order, my Lady refused permission to appeal, for reasons set out in her judgment which there is no need to rehearse. In the course of this part of her judgment she had to address the father's complaint that the judge's treatment of the covert recording point demonstrated bias on his part. Rejecting this complaint as unarguable, my Lady said this (Re B, paras 7-9):

"7  It is unfortunate that judge's interest in the wider issues thrown up has now been interpreted as judicial bias by the father and I can see how the father may have reached the conclusion that the judge had become over-concerned with the wider issues in relation to the use of covert recording. Happily, however, the judge dealt in a discrete passage within the judgment with the issue that relates solely to this case in relation to those covert recordings. In an exemplary passage, the judge concluded that the father should be permitted to rely on the recordings, notwithstanding the mother's objections and NYAS's expressed neutrality. The judge rightly concluded that such recordings were admissible and that the issue is as to relevance; the judge accepted that those recordings are relevant in the context of the father's case, not least in relation to his assertion that the mother has deliberately alienated [the child] from him. At paragraph 119, the judge set out in five numbered paragraphs why he concluded that little weight should be attached to the recordings.

8  In my judgement the judge's analysis cannot be criticised and it is a matter for the trial judge, having seen and heard the parties give evidence and having viewed the video recordings in question, to determine the weight to be attached to any particular piece of evidence and to draw his own conclusions as to the correct interpretation of that evidence. I note that whilst expressing his disapprobation of such covert recordings, the judge nevertheless referred to certain cases where they have had a significant effect on the outcome of the case.

9  The recordings were but part of a much larger evidential picture. And were not as Mr Graham seeks to persuade the court effectively determinative of the case."

6. My Lady set out her overall conclusions as follows (para 19):

"In my judgment, there is no prospect of the father succeeding in appealing the orders made by the judge. Far from being guilty of bias, the judge maintained his independence at every turn, for example: he rightly granted the father a Parental Responsibility Order, notwithstanding the objections of all the other parties, and he also intervened in a proactive and robust manner in order successfully to reintroduce direct contact between [the child] and her uncle. The judge's approach to the covert recordings was in accordance with the law as it now stands. The judge's conclusion, that both parents must bear responsibility for the present state of affairs was reached after careful consideration of all the evidence and having seen and heard the parties give oral evidence. Accordingly permission to appeal is refused."

7. In the relation to the second order my Lady said this (paras 20-24):

"20 I turn to the second part of the application, which is in relation to the publication of the judgment. Mr Graham says that, in the father's view, the judgment is not a realistic reflection of the case and therefore it should not be published. In the light of my conclusion that there is no real prospect of succeeding in an appeal against the judge's order, and accordingly the judge's finding must stand, such a submission has no merit and must fall away.

21  Mr Graham further submits that the detail of the case, if published, would not only serve to drive a further wedge between the parents, but would also have a significant impact upon [the child] in the event that she read the judgment which would be freely available on the internet.

22  In itself such a submission would not lead me to granting permission; it seems to me, however, that there is a further important issue to consider which leads me to conclude that pursuant to CPR 52.36(b), there is some compelling reason why the court should hear the full appeal in relation to the question of the publication of the judgment.

23  His Honour Judge Bellamy, a circuit judge, has purported to provide guidance as to how covert recordings should be approached in this very difficult area: he gave the guidance in circumstances where he had neither the approval nor endorsement of those guidelines by the President of the Family Division, nor had they been considered by the Law Commission, or rules committee. There is, in my judgment, an important issue as to whether in those circumstances it is appropriate for the judge's views as to the proper approach to covert recording to be disseminated on the internet, available to the professions and all those advising parents, including McKenzie friends.

24  Accordingly, in respect of the ground of appeal in relation to the publication, I propose to list that matter for further oral permission to appeal, with appeal to follow if allowed, to be listed for 2 hours, to be listed before the President and myself. In those circumstances I also leave open the argument by the father as to the impact on [the child] of permitting the judgment to be published."

8. In accordance with my Lady's order, the appeal came on for hearing before us on 10 November 2016. The appellant appeared in person, assisted by his McKenzie friend, Mr Graham. The child was represented, as before Judge Bellamy, by Ms Clifford. The mother, as when the matter was before my Lady on 13 September 2016, was neither present nor represented.

9. Before turning to consider Judge Bellamy's judgment on the covert recording point, some preliminary observations are in order.

10. The courts have had to grapple with the legal and procedural issues generated by the stool-pigeon, the eavesdropper and the concealed observer since time immemorial. Since the second half of the nineteenth century the courts have had to grapple, and keep up, with the legal and procedural issues generated by the invention of technologies for the audio or visual recording of events. On one level there is nothing very new about this. Thus, the covert filming or video-recording of personal injury or benefits claimants suspected of fraud has been an established and acceptable practice for many years. But in the family courts the issue has become much more pressing in recent years. 1

11. There are, I suspect, two reasons for this. One is the ever increasing sophistication and miniaturisation and at the same time ever decreasing cost of modern recording equipment. For anyone possessed of a smartphone or similar piece of 'kit', surreptitious audio recording or filming of events is child's play. As Peter Jackson J sagely commented in M v F [2016] EWFC 29, [2016] 4 WLR 92, para 1,

"nowadays it is all too easy for individuals to record other people without their knowledge. Advances in technology empower anyone with a mobile phone or a tablet to make recordings that would be the envy of yesterday's spies."

The other, I fear, has to do with the widespread distrust in too many quarters of the competence or even the integrity of the family justice system and of the professionals involved in it. Here, of course, it is the existence of the mindset rather than its foundation in reality which is the driving force. But it does give rise to important questions of public policy: see, for example,Re J (Reporting Restriction: Internet: Video) [2013] EWHC 2694 (Fam), [2014] 1 FLR 523, where a father filmed social workers removing his baby.

12. That said, it needs to be accepted, with honesty and candour, that there have been in recent years in the family courts shocking examples of professional malpractice which have been established only because of the covert recording of the relevant individual. In Medway Council v A & Ors (Learning Disability; Foster Placement) [2015] EWFC B66 a mother made covert recordings of the abusive and racially insensitive foster carer who she was living with along with her baby; until the recordings were played she had been disbelieved2 In Re F (Care Proceedings: Failures of Expert) [2016] EWHC 2149 (Fam), [2017] 1 FLR 1304, the lamentable shortcomings of an expert, a consultant clinical psychologist, were, in significant measure, laid bare only because the mother had covertly recorded her assessment sessions with him. 

13. It is important to distinguish between open recording and covert recording. In the nature of things, it is the latter which is more problematic. Without seeking to establish a complete taxonomy, there are at a least three categories of covert recording, each of which may raise a variety of different issues (see the careful comment of Peter Jackson J in M v F [2016] EWFC 29, [2016] 4 WLR 92, para 7): covert recording of children (for an example see M v F [2016] EWFC 29, [2016] 4 WLR 92), covert recording of other family members (for an example see Re C [2015] EWCA Civ 1096), and covert recording of professionals (see, in addition to the cases referred to above, the Transparency Project's Parents recording social workers – A guidance note for parents and professionals published in December 2015, version 2, January 2016).

14. Whatever the nature of the recording, a number of issues are likely to arise. Again without any pretence to completeness it is obvious that questions may arise as to (i) the lawfulness of what has been done; (ii) best practice outside the court room as it were; (iii) the admissibility of the recording in evidence; and (iv) a variety of other evidential and practice issues (for example, as to how the recording is to be put in evidence, problems in relation to sound and picture quality, and, in particular, disputes as to authenticity – who are the people who can be heard or seen on the recording, has the recording been edited or 'cut and spliced'? – which may necessitate calling expert evidence).

15. Furthermore, in relation to all this it may be important to identify who is doing the recording and why. Covert surveillance and recording by the police and other agencies, including the Security Service, which in current conditions not infrequently impinges upon the family courts, is one thing. Covert surveillance and recording by others may – I put the point no higher, it being a matter for another day – raise rather different issues.    

16. I draw attention to these matters to show that covert recording in the context of the family courts potentially involves a myriad of issues, very few of which, despite all the judgments to which I have referred, have, even now, been systematically considered either at first instance or in this court.

17. Judge Bellamy's main judgment runs, as I have said, to 166 paragraphs. The part that deals with the covert recording point runs to 18 paragraphs (paras 103-120). Having as it were set the scene (paras 103-106), the remaining sections of this part of the judgment are arranged under the following headings: "lawfulness" (paras 107-109), "admissibility" (paras 110-111), "relevance" (paras 112-113), "applying for permission to rely on covert recordings" (paras 114-117), "the present case" (paras 118-119) and "wider discussion" (para 120). In the course of this, Judge Bellamy referred to four judgments: that of Her Honour Judge Lazarus in Medway Council v A & Ors (Learning Disability; Foster Placement) [2015] EWFC B66, that of Roberts J in H v Dent & Ors [2015] EWHC 2090 (Fam), that of Peter Jackson J in M v F [2016] EWFC 29, [2016] 4 WLR 92, and that of Underhill J in Vaughan v London Borough of Lewisham [2013] UKEAT 0534_12_0102. He also referred to FPR 22.1.

18. Under the heading "wider discussion" (para 120), the judge referred to the fact that he had, with the agreement of the parties,

"invited Cafcass, The Transparency Project and two other interested bodies, the National Association of Guardians ad Litem and Reporting Officers and the Association of Lawyers for Children, to make written submissions on this issue. I am grateful to them for their willingness to respond. Their responses are set out in an Appendix to this judgment."

The Appendix occupies some 22 pages of text. The judge continued:

"I hope in this way to stimulate discussion on this issue out of which, perhaps, some general guidance may emerge."

19. Conformably with my Lady's views (Re B, paras 7-9, 19) there is much in what the judge said under the headings "lawfulness" (paras 107-109), "admissibility" (paras 110-111), "relevance" (paras 112-113), and "the present case" (paras 118-119), with which I would not quibble. Broadly speaking, the judge's approach to the covert recordings was in accordance with the law as it now stands, and his reasoning in the ultimately decisive paragraphs dealing with "the present case" (paras 118-119) was, I agree with my Lady, unimpeachable.

20. On the other hand, in relation to the introductory part (paras 103-106) and the parts dealing with "applying for permission to rely on covert recordings" (paras 114-117) and "wider discussion" (para 120), I do, with all respect to the judge, have a number of very serious concerns. I shall take them in the order in which they appear in the judgment.

21. The judge said (para 104) that:

"Transparency is the watchword of the Family Court."

No-one could quarrel with that, but he went on:

"The covert recording of conversations with the intention of using that material as evidence is the antithesis of transparency … as a general principle, the Family Court should deprecate and strongly discourage such making of covert recordings."

With respect, that conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premise, either as a matter of logic or as a matter of law. Moreover, the "general principle" he enunciates is far too sweeping and, expressed in these un-nuanced terms, potentially misleading. Surely, a more accurate and nuanced formulation would require consideration of such matters as who is doing the recording, and why, and who is being recorded.  

22. In relation to the part headed "applying for permission to rely on covert recordings" (paras 114-117), I have two quite separate concerns.

23. The first relates to the premise underlying the whole of the judge's analysis under this heading, namely that, as he put it (para 114), "Anyone seeking to rely on such material must … apply to the court for permission." FPR 22.1, to which he refers, undoubtedly empowers the court (FPR 22.1(1)) to "control the evidence" and (FPR22.1(2)) to "exclude evidence that would otherwise be admissible." But that is not the same as saying that the permission of the court is required before lawful, relevant and otherwise admissible evidence can be adduced. This is a matter that requires more detailed analysis, including of the FPR, before one can safely conclude that what the judge said is correct.

24. The other concern is that which my Lady has already articulated (Re B, para 23). The judge has gone on (paras 116-117) to set out guidance as to how such an application should proceed, his guidance being, in effect his exegesis in this context of the 'overriding objective' in FPR 1. He sets out his views as to how an application for permission, as he would have, should be made and then sets out "in the light of experience, and in particular experience in this present case" what he "venture[s] to suggest" are the issues that the written statement in support of the application should address. These are not matters that the judge needed to address in order to decide the case before him fairly and justly. Moreover, he embarked on the whole exercise in a case where, because both the father and the mother appeared in person, he did not have – and this, I emphasise, is no reflection at all upon Ms Clifford, or, for that matter, Mr Graham, who seems to have been well informed on the point – the benefit of sustained, professional and adversarial argument. Most fundamentally, however, this was not, with great respect to the judge, an exercise appropriately undertaken by a Circuit Judge.

25. There is a variety of ways in which guidance for the family courts is, as a matter of current practice, formulated and disseminated. The President of the Family Division can exercise the statutory function, delegated to him by the Lord Chief Justice, of issuing a Practice Direction. The President can issue non-statutory Practice Guidance. The Family Justice Council can issue guidance, which typically bears the President's endorsement (a recent example is Guidance on "Financial Needs" on Divorce, published in June 2016). The President can commission a piece of work from some appropriate expert which is then issued with his imprimatur (for example, The Family Courts: Media Access and Reporting – Guidance issued by the President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, the Judicial College and the Society of Editors, issued in July 2011). Very typically, all these various forms of guidance are the result of processes which, even if they do not involve wider consultation, will have involved the input of the Family Justice Council and/or the Family Procedure Rule Committee.

26. Finally, there are so-called 'guidance judgments', delivered either by the President or by another judge of the Family Division, reflecting the need for more general guidance on a topic which has arisen in a particular case and in relation to which the judge has had the benefit of detailed submissions from counsel. Very frequently, a 'guidance judgment' given by a judge of the Family Division will, with the President's agreement, record the fact that it has, in relation to such guidance, been read and approved by the President: see Re V (Care Proceedings: Human Rights Claims) [2004] EWCA Civ 54, [2004] 1 FLR 944, paras 4, 6, 98. It is not, however, part of the functions of a Circuit Judge sitting in the Family Court to deliver such a judgment.

27. Finally, it was not, with respect, an appropriate objective in a case such as this for the judge to devote so much time and resource in order, as he put it (para 120), to "stimulate discussion."

28. I should make clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that nothing I have said should be understood as preventing a Designated Family Judge from issuing, in appropriate circumstances, and always assuming that it is compatible with the law and general practice and with any nationally applicable guidance, local guidance intended for purely local use within the area of his responsibility as Designated Family Judge and dealing with local practice and procedure in the courts for which he has responsibility. That is not, of course, what Judge Bellamy was doing here.

29. Having got to this point, I return to the central question: What is this court to do?

30. Leaving aside, for the moment, the ground on which the father wishes to challenge the judge's decision to direct publication of the judgment (see Re B, paras 21, 24), I turn to address the point identified by my Lady (Re B, para 23):

"whether in those circumstances it is appropriate for the judge's views as to the proper approach to covert recording to be disseminated on the internet, available to the professions and all those advising parents, including McKenzie friends."

31. This, in my judgment, faces us with a difficult dilemma. For the reasons I have already given, the judge embarked upon a process which, however laudable his aims, he should never have undertaken and, more importantly, has produced a judgment which in relation to covert recording is open to serious challenge.

32. There are, I suppose, the following alternatives open to us:

i) One would be to permit the judgment to be published as it stands, hoping that our judgments today will act as a sufficient 'health-warning'. This, in my judgment, would not be satisfactory. The judgment would be in the public domain, albeit with a 'health-warning' but without fully reasoned judgments from us correcting, as opposed to merely identifying, errors or possible errors in the judge's analysis. This would be particularly unhelpful, indeed pregnant with future uncertainties and difficulties, as my Lady has suggested, in a field where so many of the issues seem to arise in the Family Court, often in cases involving litigants in person and McKenzie friends for whom the judgment might be confusing, indeed, positively unhelpful.

ii) Another would be for us to elaborate our judgments, so as to spell out, more specifically and in much more detail, not merely what is or may be wrong with the judgment but, where there has indeed been error, setting out what the law and practice are, or in the latter case ought to be. This, in my judgment, would not be appropriate: in the first place, the present case is not an appropriate vehicle for us, any more than it was for the judge, to be embarking upon such a wide-ranging exercise, and, secondly, we are ill-equipped to do so in a case where the representation is as it is and where, despite the written input from those whose submissions the judge annexed to his judgment, we do not have the width of expert input which would be available to the Family Justice Council and the Family Procedure Rule Committee.

iii) The other course would be to allow the judgment to be published but without some of the more questionable paragraphs. This, which might at first blush seem both feasible and appropriate, is, in my judgment neither. Short of omitting the entirety of paragraphs 103-120, which would have the undesirable consequence of omitting paragraph 119, the problematic aspects of the judgment, as the discussion in paragraphs 20-27 above demonstrates, appear in enough places to make it very difficult to see how, without a wholly inappropriate amount of editing, the judgment could be suitably redacted.

33. In my judgment, the least inappropriate and unattractive of these alternatives is to direct that the judge's judgment is not to be published. For my part I would therefore propose to give permission to appeal on this point and to allow the appeal to the extent of setting aside the relevant part of the judge's order of 23 June 2016 and, in its place, directing that the judgment is not to be made publicly available, whether on Bailii or elsewhere.

34. In these circumstances, if my Lady agrees, there is no need for us to consider the alternative basis of appeal put forward by the father, for he will have achieved his objective, albeit for quite different reasons. That said, I am sceptical as to whether he would have succeeded in his challenge.

35. What Judge Bellamy's endeavours have usefully demonstrated, in my judgment, is the need for consideration to be given to what is a topic of growing significance for family courts in relation to which there is, at present, surprisingly little authority and no adequate guidance. In that sense his intervention has been both timely and useful. I propose therefore, as a first step, to invite the Family Justice Council, which as a multi-disciplinary body is particularly suited to undertake the task, to consider the whole question of covert recording from a multi-disciplinary viewpoint. It will no doubt wish to consider the various documents annexed to Judge Bellamy's judgment as well as all the other materials I have referred to. There are also interesting discussions to be found on the blogosphere – for example, in the Suesspiciousminds and Pink Tape blogs; no doubt there are others – which merit careful consideration.

Lady Justice King :
36. I agree.     

A search of BAILII using the words "covert" and "recording" identifies a number of relevant cases in addition to those I have referred to in this judgment. There are seven relevant judgments of Circuit Judges in the Family Court. Two are cases of covert surveillance: Re R and E (Children) [2017] EWFC B22; Re E and N (No 2) [2017] EWFC B27. The other five are cases of covert recording: Lancashire County Council v P (injured child; welfare stage) [2015] EWFC B72; Re X [2015] EWFC B168; Re A, B, C, D & E (Final Hearing) [2015] EWFC B186; Re A (False allegations of sexual abuse) [2016] EWFC B27; Re C (Children) [2016] EWFC B55. A similar search identifies four relevant judgments of High Court judges sitting in the Family Court. One is of covert surveillance: A County Council v AB & Ors [2015] EWFC 82. The others are of covert recording: Cumbria County Council v M & Ors [2016] EWFC 27; Re A & B (Children: Restrictions on Parental Responsibility: Extremism & Radicalisation in Private Law) [2016] EWFC 40 (use of tracking device); Re FW (A Minor: Leave to Remove from Jurisdiction) [2017] EWFC 53. There are a further three relevant judgments since January 2014 of High Court judges sitting in the Family Division: Gloucestershire County Council v M [2014] EWHC 1572 (Fam); H v Dent & Ors [2015] EWHC 2090 (Fam); Joy v Joy-Morancho [2015] EWHC 2507 (Fam).

2 At the very end of what, if I may say so, was a very impressive judgment, Her Honour Judge Lazarus made this sobering observation: "In this case, the parents' allegations were frankly treated dismissively from the outset. But for this court's willingness to permit the consideration and transcription of the recordings, despite the extreme lateness that they were provided, in combination with the requirement that the foster carer attend to give evidence … , it would have been impossible to gain a just and proper understanding of this case."