The European Convention 1950 guarantees the right to a fair trial. Everyone knows that. At article 6.1 the Convention says:
Right to a fair trial
1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law….
What everyone does not know is what is a ‘civil right’. And in the present context – namely divorce of civil partnership dissolution – do you have a right to query the assertion of your spouse or civil partner that your marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down?
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 simplifies the divorce and civil partnership dissolution process by changing the law to make irretrievable breakdown – as now – the only ground for divorce or dissolution. But to prove that, there was no longer any need to establish one or more facts: adultery (marriage only), unreasonable behaviour or living apart for varying periods. One, or both, parties can file a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The procedure for this is likely – no commencement date has been confirmed – to be in force from 6 April 2022. All so far so civilised.
According to Jewish religious law, if a husband refuses to grant his wife a divorce (a “get”) she has no recourse to the Jewish authorities for a certificate and must either be content with a civil divorce, or remain a “chained woman” or “argunot”. One of the consequences of this system is that any child she may have by a subsequent relationship is considered a “manner”, or illegitimate.
For the first time in legal history Anthony Metzer QC of Goldsmith’s Chambers has used the secular criminal law to persuade a recalcitrant husband to grant his client a “get”, the threat of a prosecution for the offence of coercive and controlling behaviour leading to a maximum prison sentence of five years. This is a fascinating breakthrough and has implications not only for other “chained women” in Jewish communities but in the wider world of religious traditions where women are often the victim of unfair religious laws.
Rosalind English discusses the implications of this case with Mr Metzer QC in this week’s episode (No. 103) of Law Pod UK. You may want to refresh your memories on the use of the offence of criminal and coercive behaviour in proceedings in the family courts by listening to Rosalind’s interview with Clare Ciborowska of 1 Crown Office Row in Episode 43.
DL v SL  EWHC 2621 (Fam) 27 July 2015 (Mostyn J) – read judgment
This was a simple, if contentious, divorce case in which the judge took the opportunity to make a point about balancing the principle of open judgment – allowing media coverage of cases – against the privacy of the parties involved. Whilst he was ready to acknowledge that publicity ensures not only the probity of the judge but the veracity of the witnesses, and that such publicity served promote understanding and debate about the legal process, in some cases privacy should trump the rights of the press.
There are many cases which are heard publicly, or privately with the media in attendance, but where, by a process of anonymisation, the privacy of the parties, and of their personal and other affairs, is sought to be preserved. This compromise, or balance, between open justice and the privacy of the individual has arisen for two reasons. First, the increased recognition that is given to the interests of children who are caught up in the dispute between the adult parties. And secondly, the rise of the idea that privacy is an independently enforceable right. Continue reading →
Radmacher (formerly Granatino) (Respondent) v Granatino (Appellant)  UKSC 42 On appeal from the Court of Appeal  EWCA Civ 649 – Read judgment / press summary
The Supreme Court has ruled by an 8-1 majority (Lady Hale dissenting) that a court should give effect to a nuptial agreement that is freely entered into by each party with a full appreciation of its implications unless, in the circumstances prevailing, it would not be fair to hold the parties to their agreement.
The court robustly dismissed Mr Granatino’s appeal against a Court of Appeal decision to enforce his pre-nuptial agreement with Ms Radmacher. The agreement provided that if they were to separate, he would receive none of her considerable independent wealth.
Tchenguiz & Ors v Imerman  EWCA Civ 908 (29 July 2010) – Read judgment
The Court of Appeal has ruled that secretly obtained documents can no longer copied and then used in divorce proceedings, overturning a rule dating back almost twenty years. The case will have a significant impact for divorcing couples, but has the court left itself open to a Supreme Court reversal on human rights grounds?
The appeal related to the divorce proceedings between Vivian and Elizabeth Imerman, in which Mrs Imerman’s brothers brothers had downloaded documents from Mr Imerman’s office computer in order to prove that he had more assets than he had disclosed to the court. Mr Justice Moylan ruled in the High Court that seven files of documents should be handed back to Mr Imerman for the purpose of enabling him to remove any material for which he claimed privilege. Mr Imerman appealed against the decision that he would then have to give the documents back, and Mrs Imerman argued that she should be given more control over the privilege process.
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