02/02/2015 13:22 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Judge Branded 'Unprincipled And Unfair' After Forcing A Mum And Her 11-Year-Old Son To Live Apart


A judge has been branded 'unprincipled and unfair' after he forced a mum and her 11-year-old son to live apart despite their pleas to stay together.

Three Appeal judges said Judge Robert Dodds' decision to separate the mother and son the mother 'was not only unfair to the mother but contrary to the interests of the children with whom he was concerned'.

Sitting at the family court in Liverpool, Judge Dodds broke up the family on the basis of an out-of-date report by social workers.

He refused to listen to crucial facts of the case - dismissing them as 'Victorian detail', the Law Gazette reports.

Instead he decided break up the family 'within a matter of minutes', dismissing the 11-year-old's hopes of living with his mother.

He wished the boy 'every good luck in the world but the Children Act and the court has nothing to do with it'.

The Appeal ruling contained severe condemnation of Judge Dodds' conduct of the case by three Appeal judges: Lady Justice King, Lord Justice Lewison and the most senior family judge, President of the Family Division Sir James Munby.

Sir James said: "It is unhappily all too apparent that no dispassionate observer of the proceedings could think that justice was done, let alone that it was seen to be done. It was not."

He added that 'such a ruthlessly truncated process as the judge adopted here was fundamentally unprincipled and unfair'.

Lady Justice King said that Judge Dodds' behaviour 'was not only unfair to the mother but contrary to the interests of the children with whom he was concerned'.

Lord Justice Lewison added that justice could not be done 'when a judge has apparently made up his mind before hearing argument or evidence'.

He added: "A closed mind is incompatible with the administration of justice."

At the hearing in Liverpool last August lawyers, social workers and grandparents had agreed that two of the mother's three children, aged 14 and 10, would go to live with their grandparents.

But the 11-year-old wanted desperately to live with his mum.

The Appeal judgement said that the boy was academically capable and 'overachieving' at school. But in less than two years he had gone through 14 different placements with foster parents and his life was one of 'continued instability, distress and fervent desire to go home'.

At one stage social workers had sent him to live with his father, a drug dealer, where the boy complained of ill treatment. He was sent back to the father, who was later charged with assaulting the boy and was in prison awaiting trial at the time of the Appeal hearing last month.

Social workers had told the mother they would allow new drug tests to check her claims that she had turned her life around, and lawyers agreed the court should consider sending the boy back to her.

But Judge Dodds took a different view, making care orders placing all three children under the care of Liverpool social workers despite the detailed and different plans that had been made for them.

The Appeal judges set the decision aside and ordered the case should be taken over by a different judge.

Sir James Munby said: "A parent facing the removal of their child must be allowed to put their case to the court, however seemingly forlorn. It is one of the oldest principles of our law – it goes back over 400 years – that no-one is to be condemned unheard."

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