G v G (Minors: Custody Appeal): HL 25 Apr 1985

The House asked when a decision, on the facts, of a first instance court is so wrong as to allow it to be overturned on appeal.
Held: The epithet ‘wrong’ is to be applied to the substance of the decision made by the lower court. ‘Certainly it would not be useful to inquire whether different shades of meaning are intended to be conveyed by words such as ‘blatant error’ used by the President in the present case, and words such as ‘clearly wrong’, ‘plainly wrong’, or simply ‘wrong’ used by other judges in other cases. All these various expressions were used in order to emphasise the point that the appellate court should only interfere when they consider that the judge of first instance has not merely preferred an imperfect solution which is different from an alternative imperfect solution which the Court of Appeal might or would have adopted, but has exceeded the generous ambit within which a reasonable disagreement is possible’.
Lord Fraser of Tullybelton said: ‘The reason for the limited role of The Court of Appeal in custody cases is not that appeals in such cases are subject to any special rules, but that there are often two or more possible decisions, any one of which might reasonably be thought to be the best, and any one of which therefore a judge may make without being held to be wrong. In such cases, therefore, the judge has a discretion and they are cases to which the observations of Asquith LJ, as he then was, in Bellenden (Formerly Sattherthwaite) v Satterthwaite [1948] 1 All ER 343 apply.’ and
After quoting Asquith LJ, Lord Fraser continued: ‘I would only add that, in cases dealing with the custody of children, the desirability of putting an end to litigation, which applies to all classes of case, is particularly strong because the longer legal proceedings last, the more are the children, whose welfare is at stake, likely to be disturbed by the uncertainty.
Nevertheless, there will be some cases in which the Court of Appeal decides that the judge of first instance has come to the wrong conclusion. In such cases it is the duty of the Court of Appeal to substitute its own decision for that of the judge.’

Lord Fraser of Tullybelton, Lord Elwyn-Jones, Lord Diplock, Lord Edmund-Davies, Lord Bridge of Harwich
[1985] 1 WLR 647, [1985] 1 WLR 647, [1985] 2 All ER 225, [1985] UKHL 13, [1985] FLR 894
England and Wales
CitedIn re F (a Minor) (Wardship: Appeal) CA 1976
Bridge LJ said: ‘The judge was exercising a discretion. He saw and heard the witnesses. It is impossible to say that he considered any irrelevant matter, erred in law or applied any wrong principle. On the view I take, his error was in the balancing . .
ApprovedBellenden (formerly Satterthwaite) v Satterthwaite CA 1948
The court considered the role of the appeal court in assessing an order for maintenance payable for a divorced wife. The judge’s decision had been made by an exercise of his discretion.
Held: Asquith LJ said: ‘It is, of course, not enough for . .
ApprovedClarke-Hunt v Newcombe CA 1982
Cumming-Bruce LJ discussed the difficulty faced by an appeal court: ‘There was not really a right solution: there were two alternative wrong solutions. The problem for the judge was to appreciate the factors pointing in each direction and to decide . .
Appeal fromG v G (Minors: Custody appeal) CA 1985
A court should take great care before setting aside a decision of a judge which had involved the exercise of a judicial discretion. The court considered the duty of an appellate court in a children case: ‘What this court should seek to do is to . .

Cited by:
CitedIn re B (a Minor) (Adoption: Natural parent) HL 17-Dec-2001
The parents of a child were not married. The mother stated and had maintained her disinterest in the child from birth, and the father had been caring for the child. The local authority looked to find a fostering place with a view to adoption. The . .
ApprovedTanfern Ltd v Cameron-MacDonald, Cameron-MacDonald CA 12-May-2000
The court gave detailed guidance on the application of the new procedures on civil appeals in private law cases introduced on May 2. Appeals from a County Court District Judge’s final decision in a multi-track case could now go straight to the Court . .
CitedPiglowska v Piglowski HL 24-Jun-1999
When looking to the needs of parties in a divorce, there is no presumption that both parties are to be left able to purchase alternative homes. The order of sub-clauses in the Act implies nothing as to their relative importance. Courts should be . .
CitedRe J (A Child), Re (Child returned abroad: Convention Rights); (Custody Rights: Jurisdiction) HL 16-Jun-2005
The parents had married under shariah law. They left the US to return to the father’s home country Saudi Arabia. They parted, and the mother brought their son to England against the father’s wishes and in breach of an agreement. The father sought . .
CitedMclouglin v Jones and others CA 27-May-2005
Application for permission to appeal against striking out of part of damages schedule.
Held: Limited leave given. . .
CitedAgulian and Another v Cyganik CA 24-Feb-2006
The question was whether the deceased had lost his domicile of birth and acquired one of choice when living and working in the UK for 43 years. He had retained land in Cyprus, but lived here.
Held: He had retained his domicile of birth: . .
CitedIn Re P (Minors) (Contact) CA 15-May-1996
The father appealed an order refusing him direct contact with the child. The judge had made the order because he considered that the mother’s hostility to contact made it likely that her health would suffer if contact was ordered, and that the . .
CitedDown Lisburn Health and Social Services Trust and Another v H and Another HL 12-Jul-2006
The House considered when adoption law would allow an adoption without the consent of the birth parent where there had been some continuing contact between that parent and the child.
Held: (Baroness Hale dissenting) The appeal against the . .
CitedHill and Another v Haines ChD 3-May-2007
The husband and wife had separated and divorced. In ancillary proceedings, the family home had been transferred to the wife under a court order. The judge had noted that the husband was hopelessly insolvent, and he was made bankrupt some time later . .
CitedAM v Local Authority and Another; Re B-M (Care Orders) CA 16-Mar-2009
The father sought leave to appeal against care orders made in respect of his three children. The family were Pakistani Pathan muslims. There had been disputes and violence within the extended family. One family member sought protection but was now . .
CitedBrady v Norman QBD 26-May-2010
The claimant appealed against refusal of the Master to extend the 12 month limitation period in his proposed defamation claim. The allegations related to a dispute at an Aslef barbecue, and later of forgery. The claimant was a former General . .
CitedWhite v Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust and Another QBD 1-Apr-2011
The claimant doctor sued in defamation for letters written by the defendants to the Fitness to Practice Directorate. She now sought to appeal against a finding that she could not rely upon one letter which had come to her attention through . .
CitedC v V CoP 25-Nov-2008
The court heard an appeal objecting to the appointment of a sibling as Deputy for the parents now lacking capacity. Both daughters had at one time been appointed under Enduring Powers of Attorney, acting jointly, but the daughters became estranged. . .
CitedJackson v Murray and Another SC 18-Feb-2015
Child not entirely free of responsibility
The claimant child, left a school bus and stepped out from behind it into the path of the respondent’s car. She appealed against a finding of 70% contributory negligence.
Held: Her appeal succeeded (Majority, Lord Hodge and Lord Wilson . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Children

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.231167