The President of the Family Division, Andrew McFarlane, has appointed a judge whose ruling on a controversial case was overturned by the Court of Appeal, to become Family Division Liaison judge for the Midlands Family Court.

Mrs Nathalie Lieven, who was promoted to the role on 13 April, made an order in the Court of Protection in 2019 to force a pregnant Nigerian woman with learning difficulties to have an abortion against her wishes, on the grounds that it was in her best interests.

Lieven’s order caused a national outcry after she delivered a judgment in which she said the woman – whose learning difficulties were considered to be mild – was unlikely to understand what having a baby meant, and that “she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll.”

The order was overturned by Lady Justice King, Lord Justice McCombe, and Lord Justice Jackson in the Court of Appeal. In their judgment, delivered by Lady Justice King, the judges held that, “In the end, the evidence taken as a whole was simply not sufficient to justify the profound invasion of [the woman’s] rights represented by the non-consensual termination of this advanced pregnancy.”

Lieven also failed to hold the government to account over its unlawful behaviour during the pandemic following the Department of Education’s decision to relax central safeguards for children in care. In a judgment handed down last year, she said she would have ruled that the decision was unlawful had it not been made during “a national crisis of such urgency.”

Family Division Liaison judges hold several responsibilities, which include recommending lawyers they select to become Recorders and Circuit Judges to sit as judges of the High Court. The liaison position runs for four years, following which the President of the Family Division appoints a new judge to take up the role.

Lieven, whose background is predominantly in planning law and administrative law, is the chair of the Council of the Inns of Court Pupillage Matched Funding Grants Committee, and a member of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, an independent judicial body which provides support for victims of unlawful covert investigations by public authorities.

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