We were more than a little disappointed by Mrs Justice Theis’s handling of a recent case involving two sisters who refused to take the MMR vaccine, but were ordered to do so by the judge (think sledgehammer, and nut), and it seems the relatively new judge isn’t having much luck trying her hand at other areas of family law this month.
In another family law related case in the High Court, Mrs Justice Theis (pronounced t~ice} presided, and subsequently sent a woman to jail. The hearing in question related to contempt of court proceedings. Theis is now facing a substantial backlash for her actions, because the hearing did not feature on any publicised lists of cases, and Theis herself was not listed to appear at all that day. The furore emanates from a practice guidance issued in May about hearings relating to contempt of court which specifies that hearings relating to contempt of court should be open to the public and that Committal applications in the Family Division should be listed at the outset and also heard in public.
The Judicial Office are supportive of the judge, citing a sense of urgency and lack of time for the less than organised way in which this case was handled, and that the hearing had in fact been held in open court. (Though no one was likely to turn up because no one knew of the hearing – a minor detail, but we think it’s worth noting).
The article tells us that the woman was jailed for 28 days by Mrs Justice Theis in a hearing held at 9.30am on October 11.
A member of the press was alerted to this incident by a member of the public and has now, clearly, found its way into the news.
Despite the mitigation of the action or inaction of Theis, The President of the Family Division is clearly pensive post the incident. Sir James Munby will be looking to increase the scope of cases which should be embraced by the new contempt of court practice guidelines.
The case, though little detail is available at present, involves a woman who has thus far refused to reveal the whereabouts of two children who are the subject of interim care orders. We are very interested to read the case and hope that it will be made available to the public.
One thing does seem to stand out from this event, for us at least: Mrs Justice Theis’s fast-becoming infamous heavy-handedness when it comes to resolving cases. Let’s hope jail in this case was justified, though probability and reason are not on Justice Theis’s side, for there are very few instances where we can foresee any benefit to jailing someone in this way. We hope we’re wrong.