In a case which is set to rock the foundations of family law, it appears that Sir James Munby, the current president of the Family Division has just given permission for the media to report a case which he feels demonstrates a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on an “almost industrial scale”.

Little is yet known about the details of the case, save that around 180 irregular divorce petitions are involved, and relate to proceedings which took place before Munby on the 9th and 10th of April of this year.

In his judgment, in which he grants press access for the above mentioned case, known as “In The Matter of 180 Irregular Divorces; Rapisarda v Colladon [2014] 1406, Munby explains:

“I have been hearing applications by the Queen’s Proctor to dismiss a large number of divorce petitions and also, in many of the cases, to set aside decrees of divorce (some nisi, some absolute) obtained in consequence of what can only be described as a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on an almost industrial scale. At the outset of the final hearing on 9 April 2014 – the hearing was in open court – an important question arose in relation to the possible impact on the reporting of the proceedings of the Judicial Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Act 1926 (the 1926 Act).”

In what is a very interesting judgment (which also happens to mention one of our very favourite books on divorce, “Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady.”), Munby goes on to conclude:

“Should I exercise that discretion? In the circumstances of the present case there can, as it seems to me, be only one answer. Publication by the media of a report of the proceedings before me does not, given the nature of the proceedings, engage the mischief at which the 1926 Act is directed. On the contrary there is, in my judgment, every reason why the media should be free to report the proceedings – proceedings which, to repeat, were conducted in open court and related to what, as I have said, was a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on an almost industrial scale.

I shall, therefore, make a direction that there be liberty to the media and others to publish whatever report of the proceedings which took place before me on 9 and 10 April 2014 they may think fit. I make clear that this direction is, and is to be treated as, a direction within the meaning of limb (B) of s 1(4) of the 1926 Act.”

We will of course keep you up to date, and as soon as the details of the case are made available, we will bring them to your study table and sofa.

Interesting times.

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