A family judge has warned family lawyers not to take a 'lackadaisical' approach to case preparation after the wrong person was summoned as a witness to attend court in a case involving a seven-week old baby who suffered burns covering her groin area.
In a critical post-script, His Honour Judge Kambiz Moradifar states in In the matter of Re K & C (Children: Finding of Fact) that families are the 'building blocks of our society and in public law proceedings, the courts deal with some of the most vulnerable'.
He said: 'Professionals who work in the family justice system are highly skilled specialists who often work on complex cases involving serious intricate forensic issues. Their skill set and professional standards are essential for those who represent the parties in public law proceedings. It is incumbent on those representing the parties facing serious allegations to ensure they have seen, read and understood all the evidence in the case and to ensure that the party who they represent has been able to participate meaningfully in the court process.'
The central issues in the case were how the injuries were caused and who was responsible.
The judgment, published this week, states that neither the parents nor their counsel were aware that there were colour photos of the injuries that were commented on in detail in the jointly instructed expert's written report.
Moradifar HHJ said: 'Until she was partway through giving oral evidence, the mother had never seen the transcript of her police interview. Despite being in possession of Y's photograph, the mother's solicitors failed to mention this to the local authority or their own private investigator, resulting in much embarrassment when the wrong person was witness summonsed and attended court.
'Counsel for the parents have both informed me that they are immigration specialists, consequently the other professionals have had to work very hard to make sure that the hearing could be fair and effective. The mother's evidence has taken much longer than necessary, which can only have made it more stressful than it needed to be. There is no room in the family court for such a lack of care and lackadaisical approach to case preparation.'
The firms named in the judgment have been approached for comment.