It can sometimes be difficult not to pre-judge events, but it is important not to do so in court. In a recent case, the court overturned a judge’s dismissal of an application for contact from a father.
The father had appealed against the judge’s refusal to grant an adjournment of contact proceedings after the father (who suffers from bi-polar disorder) was unable to attend due to being medically unfit.
The man’s psychological disorder led to occasional bouts of violence towards the other members of his family, and a fact-finding hearing was set as a part of determining the man’s contact with his children, who were in the custody of their mother.
However, on the day of the hearing the father was not fit to attend, which was corroborated by independent medical evidence. The judge dismissed the man’s application to adjourn the proceedings and dismissed his application for contact, considering that it had no reasonable prospect of success.
The man appealed. The Court of Appeal ruled that the judge was wrong to consider anything more than the facts before him. In this case, he had taken account of matters which were to be decided at a later stage and this denied the father a fair hearing.