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LB of Islington v Ramsey [2013] EWHC 2718 (Fam)

Application by a local authority for committal of a father for contempt of court arising from the breach of a collection order in respect of his son. Contempt proved.

Case No:  FD13P00660
Neutral Citaiton Number: [2013] EWHC 2718 (Fam)


Date: Thursday, 11th April 2013





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MS STANLEY appeared on behalf of the Appellant
appeared on behalf of the Respondent

1. This is an application for the committal of the Second Respondent, Eddie Ramsey, for breach of an order made by the Honourable Mr Justice Holman on 3rd April 2013 to locate and collect Mr Ramsey's son X.  The terms of the order at paragraph 1 were to place the child in the care of the Applicant Local Authority once X had been found and at paragraph 2 the order was in the following terms:

"If Jackie Williams (who is X's mother) and Eddie Ramsey, who are together and individually described below as the Respondents and any other persons served with this order is in a position to do so, he or she must each deliver the child into the charge of the Tipstaff.  If the Respondent or any other person served with this order is not in a position to deliver the child to the Tipstaff he or she must each:-

(a) inform the Tipstaff of the whereabouts of the child if such is known to him or her; and

(b) also in any event inform the Tipstaff of all matters within his or her knowledge or understanding which might reasonably assist him in locating the child."

2. X is 13 years of age.  A final care order was made on 15th October 2012 and he was placed at the Z in Y.  It is quite clear that his father fundamentally disagrees with that placement. 

3. On 21st March 2013 X went missing from care.  I heard some oral evidence from Mr Ramsey in which Mr Ramsey said that he gave X £60 in cash on 20th March and it may well be that it was that money that enabled X to escape from those that were looking after him on 21st March.  He has been missing from care since that day.  As it is now 11th April, that is some three weeks.  It is extremely worrying.

4. The police went to Mr Ramsey's address yesterday.  They served him with the order.  He told them, as his first response, that X was safe.  I will return to that in due course.  Thereafter he said he did not know where X was.  The police did not believe him.  He was arrested and has been brought before me today.

5. It is right that I should note that initially he refused to come into court to give evidence before me.  I explained to his counsel that the consequence of a failure to come into court that was likely to be a finding of contempt and a long prison sentence.  It is entirely right that as a result of that Mr Ramsey did come into court and I give him credit for that.

6. The Local Authority says that Mr Ramsey is in breach of paragraph 2 of Holman's J order.  The burden of proof is on he who alleges the contempt.  In this case, that is the Local Authority.  The standard of proof is the criminal standard.  I have to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt.  In other words I have to be satisfied so that I am sure.

7. In this particular case Mr Ramsey told me that he was "close, very close" to his son.  He told me that his son is "loved well".  He told me that when he said his son was safe he meant that he was safe when he was not in the hands of the Police, the Local Authority or Z and he said that he must therefore be safe, because he considered he was in significant danger if he was in their clutches.  He told me that X was not a little child and that he, X, had removed himself from significant danger.

8. He was cross-examined.  During the course of that cross-examination he confirmed that he is extremely close to X.  He told me that X had not contacted him in over three weeks.  He said he did not know where X was or who he was with.  He told me that he was a responsible parent.  He told me that he had spoken to the mother yesterday and that the mother did not speak to him about X.  She had spoken to him about X in the past three weeks.  She hoped that X was safe. 

9. I regret to say that I do not believe a word of Mr Ramsey's evidence.  I do not believe his evidence to the criminal standard of proof.  In other words, I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Ramsey was lying to me.  He is therefore in breach of paragraph 2 of the order of Holman J.

10. Mr Maggs' submitted to me that suspicion is not enough and that there was nothing that could prove that Mr Ramsey does know X's whereabouts.  I accept that suspicion is not enough but I do not accept that Mr Ramsey does not know X's whereabouts.  I do not merely suspect that this is the case.  I am sure it is the case.  It is quite clear to me that a 13 year old boy is not going to be able to survive on his own without assistance.  I have had it confirmed to me by Mr Ramsey that he is very close to his son. I find that when he said as his first response to the Police that his son was safe, it was because he knew he was safe.  He has information as to his son's whereabouts and he is deliberately not telling me.  That is contempt of Court. 

11. I cannot believe that any father whose 13 year old son had gone missing from anywhere would not be at his wit's end if he did not know where his son was.  I believe that any father who did not know where his son was could not possibly say that his son was safe given the terrible dangers that exist in this country for teenage children on their own.  The reason why he said he was safe was because he knows where he is and when he says that he is well loved and he has removed himself from significant danger, he says that because he was a party to that removal.

12. I therefore find to the criminal standard of proof that he is in contempt of paragraph 2 of Holman's J order.