A litigant in person has failed with an attempt to have a solicitor acting for his ex-partner sent to prison.
The father of a 10-year-old girl, referred to as H, had applied to have family solicitor Terri Harman and two social workers committed to prison following a hearing to decide contact with the child (referred to as B).
During a three-day hearing last month, H accused Harman of an interference with the course of justice for which she should be imprisoned as punishment.
But Mrs Justice Roberts, sitting in the High Court (Family Division), said there was ‘no merit whatsoever’ in any of the applications, which were ‘procedurally flawed’ and constituted an ‘abuse of the court process’.
The judge said there was no contempt of court and that Harman had not misled the court or interfered in any way with the due administration of justice.
‘This catalogue of complaints against [Harman], completely ignores the fact that her professional duties lay with her own client, B’s mother,’ said Roberts.
‘She had no contractual relationship with H and at no time was her professional relationship with him impressed with any fiduciary or legal obligations. She had a professional obligation to act in the best interests of her client.’
The court heard that H had enjoyed regular contact with the child until 2013, when that arrangement broke down.
He sought direct contact with B and an order granting him parental responsibility for the child, with the final hearing coming in June 2014.
Unbeknown to Harman or one of the Cafcass social workers listed in the proceedings, Billie McKay, H had been illicitly and covertly making tape recordings of discussions outside court between them before that final hearing. This amounted to around five hours of material which was submitted to the judge.
H, a Bulgarian national, alleged in his first written statement that McKay and Harman had ‘aligned themselves’ in recommending that indirect contact and a family assistance order would be the best way forward.
A second statement alleged Harman had ‘taken advantage’ of him in the discussions outside court and that she abused her position of trust to persuade him that the court was likely to dismiss his application for parental responsibility because of the implications it had for the child under international law.
He alleged that her ‘deception and contempt was not accidental’ and that her behaviour constituted an interference with the course of justice which merited imprisonment.
But Roberts said there was no evidence that Harman fraudulently or knowingly misled the court.
The judge added: ‘Each of the defendants is now relieved of any further concerns as to their future liberty and/or the potential impact of these proceedings upon their professional careers.’
The judge turned down an application to impose a civil restraint order against H as the litigation in relation to B is ongoing.