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Re Davies [2013] EWHC 3294 (Fam)

Contempt proceedings in respect of three members of family of a woman, who had removed her daughter from the jurisdiction, for their failure to divulge the whereabouts of the child. All three family members held to be in contempt. Sentencing adjourned.

After the relationship between the parents broke down, the mother subsequently left this jurisdiction for Russia.  The father last saw his daughter (now aged 5) in December 2011.  The mother made an application to stop contact in March 2012 before she left this jurisdiction but the proceedings went no further.  The mother gave as her reasons for leaving as, inter alia, that she must leave this jurisdiction in order to find employment elsewhere.

The father commenced proceedings in Cardiff County Court in December 2012 and after a number of hearings and steps taken by the father and the court to locate the child and her mother, the proceedings came before Keehan J in October 2013.

The maternal grandparents attended court and denied having any knowledge of where the mother and the child were located.  The judge ordered during the hearing that the maternal aunt be served with a location order and the police attended the maternal aunt's home.

During the course of the enquiries made by the police at the maternal aunt's home, the police noticed what may have been a telephone number for the mother on the maternal aunt's telephone and subsequently the maternal grandparents and aunt were arrested and brought to the High Court the following afternoon.

The maternal grandparents and maternal aunt gave evidence before Keehan J that caused the judge to find, so that he was sure, that they were all lying as to their knowledge of the mother and the child's location.

They were remanded in custody while the hearing was adjourned for sentencing and to obtain legal representation.

Summary by Richard Tambling, barrister, 1 Garden Court


[2013] EWHC 3294 (Fam)

Royal Courts of Justice
Friday, 25th October 2013




Transcribed by BEVERLEY F. NUNNERY & CO
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This judgment was given on the 25th October 2013. The judge hereby gives leave for it to be reported.

1. In this matter I am concerned with one young child, Alice Gabrielle Davies, who was born on 18th September 2008 and is five years of age.  Her mother is Jacqueline Davies.  Her father is Julian Brown.  Her maternal grandparents are Patricia Anne Davies and Brian Davies.  Her maternal aunt is Melanie Williams.  The parents' relationship broke down and they had recourse to court proceedings.  The father was unable to have contact with Alice.  Those court proceedings resulted in an order being made on 29th June 2011 for the father to have contact with his daughter on a regular basis.  In fact, subsequent to that order, he has not seen her since 18th December 2011. 

2. On 1st March 2012, the mother submitted an application for the cessation of contact because she was planning to leave the jurisdiction.  In the reasons that she gave for applying for that order she said:  

"Unfortunately, because of the constant need to take time off to prepare for and attend court, my job became untenable and my employment terminated.  So due to the financial circumstances of not working and the implications of the continuing costs of solicitors' fees etc, which has left me in debt and without the security of a job, and trying to sort out the finances of the here and now, I have had to make an uncomfortable decision.  Therefore, because of the need to support my child and myself and the economic climate in the United Kingdom, after months of looking for work, I have had to take drastic action and have been forced to seek a position further afield, leaving my roots and family support." 

3. Sometime after that application - the date is not at all clear - the mother did indeed leave this jurisdiction with Alice.  From the enquiries made by the Tipstaff, it appears that she flew to Russia.  There is no record of her returning from Russia to this jurisdiction, and it is unknown whether she remains living in Russia with Alice or in a country somewhere else. 

4. On 11th December 2012, there was a court hearing before a District Judge in the Cardiff County Court in relation to the father's attempt to enforce the order for contact.  The recital reads:

"Upon hearing father in person, no attendance by mother, and upon hearing from Mrs. Anne Davies, maternal grandmother, who advised the court she did not know the current whereabouts of the mother or the child and has received no contact from the mother since a telephone call in October 2012, and upon the father wishing to proceed, an application for contact and/or enforcement." 

5. In relation to trying to move matters forward, Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunals Service from Cardiff County Court wrote the father a letter dated 15th April 2013.  Part of that letter reads:

"An inquiry of the DWP answered in October 2012 revealed the last known address of mother as being grandmother's address." 

6. Earlier this year there was an order made by District Judge Regan in the Cardiff County Court on 22nd April 2013.  The recital reads: 

"Upon hearing the applicant father in person, there being no service upon the mother, her whereabouts remain unknown to the court and the father; the maternal grandmother having informed the court that the mother and the child had left the jurisdiction but not divulging mother and child's whereabouts..." 

7. The matter eventually came before a Circuit Judge sitting as a High Court Judge in the Principal Registry of this court, and on 3rd October 2013 she made an order transferring this matter to the High Court.  The father agreed to make an application for wardship so that he might seek the assistance of the Tipstaff to locate Alice. 

8. The matter came before Ms. Jennifer Roberts QC, sitting as a deputy High Court Judge, on 8th October 2013.  On that day she made a location order.  The matter returned before Ms. Roberts QC, sitting as a deputy High Court Judge, on 15th October, when she made an order for Mrs. Davies, the maternal grandmother, to attend this court because she was required to give all and any information within her knowledge as to the current whereabouts of the child and of the mother. 

9. Mrs. Davies, accompanied by her husband, Brian Davies, attended before me yesterday, and I made an order requiring her, on one last chance, to divulge the details of the whereabouts of Alice and the mother.  During the course of that hearing the maternal grandmother, Mrs. Davies, gave evidence on oath before me.  She told me repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that she had no means by which she could make contact with her daughter and that she was solely reliant upon her daughter making contact with her, which she did from time to time.  She also told me repeatedly that she had no idea where her daughter or Alice were in the world.  Mr. and Mrs. Davies then left court and travelled by car back to Cardiff. 

10. During the course of that hearing, at the request of the Tipstaff, I required Mrs. Davies to give him the name and address of her other daughter, Melanie Williams.  The police attended upon Mrs. Williams last night and served her with the location order and explained that order to her, and the duty that she was therefore under to cooperate with this court and to give information that was available to her about the whereabouts of Alice and her sister Jacqueline. 

11. I have statements from the two police officers who attended upon Mrs. Williams - a Police Constable and a Police Sergeant.  The statements record the self-same evidence, namely that when they asked Mrs. Williams when she had last been in contact with her sister, Jacqueline, she replied, to start with that it was "about three years ago".  She insisted that since they were 18 and had left home they had gone their separate ways and they had not spoken for some time.  She said that she had sent some emails to her sister.  Those had not been returned undelivered, but she claimed that she had not received any reply.  She continued to deny having any knowledge about where her sister lived.  The police officer records as follows:  "Whilst looking for the mobile number for Patricia Davies, I noticed a contact 'Jacq'.  I asked Melanie if this was her sister.  She did not reply.  I therefore noted down the mobile number".  Again, the police officers asked Mrs. Williams about when was the last time she had contact with her sister.  The police officer says:  "Melanie eventually stated that she had had a Skype text conversation in August 2013 but insisted she did not know where her sister had been when they had that conversation." 

12. Because one of Mrs. Williams' daughters was present at the home when the police were there, they advised her that they were minded to arrest her for breach of the order.  They therefore contacted the maternal grandparents, who were still en route from this court, to look after their granddaughter.  The police were still present when Mr. and Mrs. Davies arrived.  The Police Sergeant explained to all three of them the reason they were there and urged them to provide any information in order to prevent the arrest of Mrs. Williams.  The Police Sergeant then sets out in his statement the following:  "Patricia Davies then said loudly, 'I can't, I can't, I won't.  They'll take the baby away'."  The Police Sergeant again urged the grandmother, Mrs. Davies, to provide any details she had of her daughter Jacqueline.  She then told the police officer that she had a mobile number.  She went out to her car and came back and gave the telephone number to the police officer.  The Police Sergeant asked her to telephone that number.  He records Mrs. Davis replying:  "Jacqueline wouldn't answer because it was the middle of the night where she was".  She was asked how she knew it was the middle of the night.  She said:  "I don't know".  She was again asked: "How do you know it is the middle of the night?", and she replied:  "Because it's thousands of miles away".  She was asked how she knew that, and she said that Jacqueline had told her.  She finally said:  "You'll just have to arrest me.  I don't care what they do to me". 

13. In consequence of that, the police arrested Mrs. Davies, Mr. Davies and Mrs. Williams.  They were detained in Cardiff Police Station overnight and were brought to this court this afternoon. 

14. Over the course of this afternoon, Mrs. Davies, Mr. Davies and Mrs. Williams have given evidence on oath.  Mrs. Davies gave evidence first and then her husband and then her daughter, Melanie.  Having considered their evidence, I am in no doubt whatsoever that all three of them are lying to me.  I find that Patricia Davies has lied and has admitted lying on oath when she told me yesterday that she had no mobile number for her daughter and had no means of contacting her.  It is wholly remarkable then that on her journey back from this court she is sending texts to her daughter.  Of note, she was asked by the police officers prior to them arresting her whether she had been in contact with Jacqueline today - that is yesterday.  She replied:  "Yes, but by text but I've deleted the texts now".  Mrs. Davis claimed that those texts were deleted because that is her normal practice.  I regret to find I do not believe her.  I find that she deleted those texts so that nobody would be able to see what she had sent to her daughter or what her daughter had sent to her.  I am satisfied, so that I am sure, that Mrs. Davis did say to the police officers:  "I can't, I can't, I won't tell you".  That is entirely in keeping with her final comment to the police of:  "You'll just have to arrest me.  I don't care what they do to me".  She said in evidence to me that she knew it was the middle of the night where Jacqueline was because she said Jacqueline had told her.  I find once again, so that I am sure, that Mrs. Davies is lying to me.  She knew it was the middle of the night because she knows precisely where her daughter is, but she refuses to tell this court. 

15. In relation to Mr. Brian Davies, in my presence in court yesterday I heard him, and I am quite satisfied and sure I heard him, instruct the maternal grandmother when she was giving evidence "not to tell them".  He denied that in the witness box.  Mr. Cheesley, the Tipstaff, told me at the start of this hearing that after I had risen from court yesterday Mr. Brian Davies had said:  "I'm the head of the family.  I told her to leave the country".  Initially, he appeared to accept that that is what he had said, but then he changed it and said that, no, he had not told his daughter Jacqueline to leave the country, he had told her to leave his house.  However, he then claimed not to remember whether his daughter had left the house immediately after he had said that or how long a period it was after he had apparently told her to leave the house that she in fact did so with Alice.  I note that it is significant that in her application of March 2012, giving her reasons for leaving this jurisdiction, the mother (a) does not assert that she had been thrown out of the home where she was living by her father and (b) quite the contrary, she states that she had a difficult decision to make which will result in her losing the support of her family. 

16. I regret to find so that I am sure that Mr. Brian Davies is lying when he denies saying in court yesterday that he told his daughter to leave the country.  I regret to find that I am satisfied, so that I am sure, that he is lying when he claims he threw his daughter out of the house.  He claims to have had no contact whatsoever with his daughter for about four years or thereabouts.  I regret he gave me no satisfactory explanation whatsoever as to why he should take that course with his daughter or why he does not like her anymore and does not want to have any relationship with her.  The best he could come up with was that it was because she had had sex before marriage with her then partner, which resulted in the conception of Alice.  I am satisfied that Brian Davies is lying to the court, that he has information he could give but he refuses to give it. 

17. In relation to Melanie Williams, I regret to find that she has lied to this court.  First, I note that she told the police that it was some three years since she had last communicated with her sister, Jacqueline.  She then changed that in evidence to me, that it had been about two and a half years since she last spoke or had communication of any kind with her sister.  When she was reminded of what she had told the police yesterday, that in fact it was August 2013 when she had last had a Skype text conversation, she was unable to be clear in her recollection that that took place, although she admitted that she had said that to the police.  When I asked her about what conversation she had with her sister, she could not remember any details at all, and then told me that it was not a conversation at all, and she had not said to the police it was a conversation.  She had sent a text to her sister, she said, but received no reply.  She then accepted that she had said to the police it was a conversation that she had had with her sister in August 2013, but maintained that that conversation consisted of merely sending a text to her sister and receiving no reply.  I regret to find, so that I am sure, that in giving those accounts to the police and to me, Mrs. Williams is lying. 

18. I am satisfied, when I consider the reasons why Mrs. Davies, Mr. Davies and      Mrs. Williams are lying to this court, that it is for one reason and one reason only (because, although I have pondered the matter, I can think of no other reason for them lying) and it is this:  they know full well where Jacqueline and Alice are but they refuse to tell this court or the Tipstaff where that is because they do not want to assist in any respect in the attempt to try and secure the return of Alice to the jurisdiction of this court.  I am satisfied, so that I am sure, that they also have the means of communicating and contacting Jacqueline but they have sought, particularly Mrs. Davies, to obfuscate that position and they have not told me the truth about the communications that they have had with her not only over the last few years but in the last few months and in the last few days.  Again, they are lying about those matters because they do not wish to assist this court in seeking to recover Alice back to this jurisdiction. 

19. On those findings, I am in no doubt that all three of them are in contempt of this court.  I propose to adjourn sentencing for the contempt until Wednesday of next week, 30th October, at 10.30 in the morning.  That is to enable all three of them to obtain legal representation so I may hear submissions on the issue of the sentence that I will pass for the contempts that I have found.  Prior to that hearing on Wednesday 30th October, all three of them will be remanded in custody.  There will be a production order in respect of all three to secure their attendance at this court on Wednesday 30th October.  If in the meantime any one of them wishes to divulge the information which I am sure they have, they will be entitled to apply to purge their contempt to this court.  That is the judgment of the court.