Re W (A Child) (A Child) (Adoption Order: Leave to Oppose): CA 16 Oct 2013

Sir James Munby discussed the lamentable failure by a local authority to comply with an order of the court: ‘That the parents and their representatives should have been put in this position is quite deplorable. It is, unhappily, symptomatic of a deeply rooted culture in the family courts which, however long established, will no longer be tolerated. It is something of which I complained almost thirteen years ago: see In re S (A Child) (Family Division: Without Notice Orders) [2001] 1 WLR 211, [2001] 1 FLR 308. Perhaps what I say as President will carry more weight than what I said when the junior puisne.
I refer to the slapdash, lackadaisical and on occasions almost contumelious attitude which still far too frequently characterises the response to orders made by family courts. There is simply no excuse for this. Orders, including interlocutory orders, must be obeyed and complied with to the letter and on time. Too often they are not. They are not preferences, requests or mere indications; they are orders: see In re W (A Child) (Care Proceedings: Court’s Function) [2013] EWCA Civ 1227, [2014] 1 WLR 1611, para 74.
The law is clear. As Romer LJ said in Hadkinson v Hadkinson [1952] P 285, 288, in a passage endorsed by the Privy Council in Isaacs v Robertson [1985] AC 97, 101:
‘It is the plain and unqualified obligation of every person against, or in respect of whom, an order is made by a court of competent jurisdiction, to obey it unless and until that order is discharged. The uncompromising nature of this obligation is shown by the fact that it extends even to cases where the person affected by an order believes it to be irregular or even void.’
For present purposes that principle applies as much to orders by way of interlocutory case management directions as to any other species of order. The court is entitled to expect – and from now on family courts will demand – strict compliance with all such orders. Non-compliance with orders should be expected to have and will usually have a consequence.
Let me spell it out. An order that something is to be done by 4 pm on Friday, is an order to do that thing by 4 pm on Friday, not by 4.21 pm on Friday let alone by 3.01 pm the following Monday or sometime later the following week. A person who finds himself unable to comply timeously with his obligations under an order should apply for an extension of time before the time for compliance has expired. It is simply not acceptable to put forward as an explanation for non-compliance with an order the burden of other work. If the time allowed for compliance with an order turns out to be inadequate the remedy is either to apply to the court for an extension of time or to pass the task to someone else who has available the time in which to do it.
Non-compliance with an order, any order, by anyone is bad enough. It is a particularly serious matter if the defaulter is a public body such as a local authority.’

Sir James Munby P, Goldring, Elias LJJ
[2013] EWCA Civ 1177, [2013] WLR(D) 384, [2014] 1 FLR 1266, [2014] 1 WLR 1993
Adoption and Children Act 2002
England and Wales
CitedIsaacs v Robertson PC 13-Jun-1984
(St Vincent and The Grenadines) Where the point at issue before the Board was as to a point of procedure with no direct comparable provision in UK law, the Board of the Privy Council should be reluctant to depart from the interpretation set down by . .
CitedHadkinson v Hadkinson CA 1952
The courts adopt an approach similar to that of the United States courts where there has been a significant contempt on the part of a party to litigation. Denning LJ said: ‘Those cases seem to me to point the way to the modern rule. It is a strong . .
CitedIn re S (A Child) (Family Division: Without Notice Orders) FD 2001
Munby J considered the the duty of full and frank disclosure which exists on those who seek to use a without notice procedure within Children proceedings. Generally, when granting ex parte injunctive relief in the Family Division, the court will . .

Cited by:
CitedIn re W (Children) FD 25-Jul-2014
. .
CitedIn re W (Children) FD 25-Jul-2014
. .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 21 November 2021; Ref: scu.516558