Hunters Solicitors partner, Hazel Wright, appears on BBC Radio 5 live Drive discussing Rebecca Minnock and child custody. The transcript of the interview can be found below.
Lets talk now to Hazel Wright, who is a partner a Hunters Solicitors, and has worked in Family law for more than 30 years. Hello Hazel:
Hazel Wright: Hello, good afternoon.
A lot of people have noticed that the judge has been particularly open in this trial, family law is normally quite a closed shop really isn’t it to try and protect the children.
HW: I think that is right, although family law between adults is less closed these days as much drive towards transparency. The difference here is that it had gone from the private proceedings for contact which the father originally started just a month after the separation into criminal proceedings because of the contempt of court because the order was made by the judge that the child should be returned and was given to a court officer called a tipstaff to serve on the, in this case the mother and her partner, Mr Butt, and they didn’t comply and it was quite obvious that they did have more information than they were giving to the court. That becomes a criminal matter and therefore it becomes an open court matter, and the rules say this has to be in open court.
And as we were saying there, they’ve both been jailed for hiding the information that they knew. In terms of Rebecca Minnock, I mean we heard the police earlier today making a very clear and direct appeal to her and it wasn’t just an appeal to come back, they were reassuring her about what rights she could expect if she turned herself in.
HW: That’s right and she has a number of rights, obviously, primarily, for the welfare of the child and it is going to be very much in Ethan’s interest to have a good relationship with both parents. It became law last November that you actually have to do all you can to ensure a good relationship with both parents continuing. And so it is likely that whatever does happen next, that will happen. The current court stands that he should live with his father, with contact with his mother which is to be supervised, that’s because of the fears of what’s happening to him at the moment, more recently obviously in hiding with his mother, but generally. And so he will have certain rights and the mother will be subjugated to those and his interests will come first. But she has the right to family life, under various conventions, so she has a right to actually have time with her child and as time goes on that may well change from being, as currently ordered, supervised, one doesn’t know.
The fact that this has been played out so publicly, it’s been in the media, people are now forming an opinion on it, will that effect the way that custody is handled further down the line, will that ever change anything?
HW: I think that it is very unlikely, I think the use of the media was actually instigated by her family who said deliberately they wanted people to know, they wanted this to be a story that was picked up. In fact, Mr Butt said, I think, that when he knew the national media had picked it up, then they thought that they’re campaign had been achieved, and that that would be enough. And he now obviously appeals for Rebecca to come back. I think it is most unlikely that unless the mother goes on breaching court orders or indeed the father has certain difficulties with the child, one doesn’t know, but it’s unlikely. What I hope now will happen, is that it will go into private, they will work things out between them, they will undoubtedly get assistance from all sorts of people, because they need it clearly. It’s a hugely difficult thing to come back from such a rumpus in the last week.
And it’s not the sort of, I suppose, line that you would suggest that people take if they want to try and change things, to turn it into a ‘cause celeb’ I suppose. There would, I imagine, never be a judge who would take that into account and change things just as a result of what the public will might be.
HW: That’s right. I think the allegations against the mother now are of some emotional impact on the child. She makes allegations against the father that are more physical. The allegations against the mother are of emotional impact and one can only see a judge thinking, well how is it sensible to have this huge campaign in the media and how does that benefit her, as regards her relationship with the child. But I do think that it ought to go back into the private area now, it ought to have help from those who can help. There is a very experienced child psychiatrist, Dr Mark Berelowitz, involved in the case already, he may be suitable I don’t know, he doesn’t generally take on further work after he has been an expert to the court. But nonetheless, I think it is important now that we concentrate on the child, there has been a little bit on the mother, a little bit about the criminal proceedings, a little bit today, obviously with the sentencing, it is very unusual and very severe and the courts do tend not to put people in prison in family cases. It is very important, court orders have to be obeyed.
Hazel Wright, thank you, partner at Hunters Solicitors who has worked in family law for more than 30 years.
Listen to the full interview here.