Blunkett v Quinn

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeMr Justice Ryder
Judgment Date03 December 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] EWHC 2816 (Fam)
Docket NumberCase No: FD04P02317
CourtFamily Division
Date03 December 2004

[2004] EWHC 2816 (Fam)






Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London WC2A 2LL


The Honourable Mr Justice Ryder

Case No: FD04P02317

David Blunkett
Kimberly Quinn

Mr Peter Jackson QC (instructed by Bindman & Partners) for the applicant

Mr Jeremy Posnansky QC (instructed by Mishcon de Reya) for the respondent

Hearing date: 2 December 2004

Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

Mr Justice Ryder Mr Justice Ryder

Mr Justice Ryder



This is an appeal from an order of the Senior District Judge concerning a young boy whose identity is known in the public arena but to whom I shall refer as 'A'. He was born on 20 September 2002 and is just over two years of age. The parties to the proceedings are Mr David Blunkett and Ms Kimberly Fortier. Throughout the application before me Ms Fortier has been referred to by her married name, Mrs Kimberly Quinn.


The child concerned lives with Mrs Quinn and her husband, Mr Stephen Quinn, at an address in London. Mrs Quinn is 28 weeks pregnant and it is said that her physical and mental health is at significant risk because she is suffering relatively severe complications of pregnancy.


Mr Blunkett is represented by Mr Peter Jackson QC and Bindman & Partners, solicitors. Mr Blunkett was present in court during the hearing yesterday afternoon. Mrs Quinn is represented by Mr Jeremy Posnansky QC and Mishcon de Reya, solicitors. Mrs Quinn was, I accept, too ill to attend court yesterday and was in hospital at the time the appeal was heard.


On 11 November 2004 Mr Blunkett issued an application for a parental responsibility order and a contact order under the Children Act 1989. Having regard to some of the more inaccurate speculation that there has been, I should emphasise that Mr Blunkett has made no other applications to the court and that, in particular, there is not and never has been an application by Mr Blunkett for a residence order or for scientific tests to determine A's paternity. In his application Mr Blunkett is described as the father of the child and Mrs Quinn is described as the mother.


It became clear during the hearing before the Senior District Judge that Mrs Quinn takes issue with the court's jurisdiction to determine Mr Blunkett's application on the basis that she does not accept that he is the father of A. The importance of this is that, if she is right, Mr Blunkett could not make one of his applications, namely that for contact, without the permission of the court and his application for a parental responsibility order would be fatally flawed.


It should be recorded that Mrs Quinn has not herself issued an application for scientific tests to determine A's paternity nor for any order of the court other than an adjournment.


The court listed Mr Blunkett's application for a conciliation appointment on 30 November 2004. A conciliation appointment at the Principal Registry of the Family Division is the first hearing and an opportunity for early dispute resolution in that court.


On 19 November 2004 Mrs Quinn issued an application to vacate the conciliation appointment and to adjourn the proceedings to the first available date after 1 April 2005.


On 23 November 2004 Senior District Judge Waller heard and refused Mrs Quinn's application to adjourn until April 2005, vacated the conciliation appointment and listed the proceedings for further directions before him on a specified date later this year to consider:

i) whether Mr Quinn should be joined as a party;

ii) whether there should be scientific tests to determine the paternity of A; and

iii) the further case management of the proceedings.


I have seen a transcript of the Senior District Judge's judgment and a bundle of documents that includes the statements and affidavits made by the solicitors for the parties and that were filed for the court's consideration on 23 November 2004. In addition, I have been provided with certain new documentation to which I shall make reference in due course.


This appeal has been brought on as an urgent appeal having regard to the imminence of the next hearing date ordered by the Senior District Judge and in particular because it remains Mrs Quinn's intention to avoid that next hearing and delay consideration of Mr Blunkett's application until April 2005. In consequence and in common with other urgent applications this appeal has been listed 'at risk', ie the parties have had to take the risk that the appeal would not have been heard and have had to wait for an opportunity to be heard in a very busy list. They have had to be interrupted by more urgent matters during the course of the day. They have not been 'fast tracked'!

The law


This is an appeal to a single judge of the High Court from a District Judge of the Principal Registry. Accordingly the appellate principles that apply are those relating to first appeals to the Court of Appeal as described in G v G (Minors: Custody Appeal) [1985] FLR 894 and, for example, Clarke-Hunt v Newcombe (1983) 4 FLR 482 at 486 (see for example, Re S (Appeal from Principal Registry: Procedure) [1997] 2 FLR 856). The principles are well known and need only be summarised by me as follows:

i) Is there an error of law?

ii) Is the decision plainly wrong on the facts?

iii) Is the exercise of discretion plainly wrong?


Best practice case management of private law applications by the judiciary has recently been restated in guidance issued by the President of the Family Division on 9 November 2004 entitled the 'Private Law Programme'. In essence that guidance seeks to promote the following:

i) The application of an overriding objective by:

a) dispute resolution at a first hearing;

b) effective court control, including monitoring outcomes against aims;

c) flexible facilitation and referrals (matching resources to families)

ii) Effective court control is to be achieved, inter alia, by:

a) continuous and active case management by the specialist judiciary; and

b) the avoidance of unnecessary delay.


The overriding objective is:

"…to enable the court to deal with every children case:

a) justly, expeditiously, fairly and with the minimum of delay;

b) in ways which ensure, so far as is practicable, that

i) the parties are on an equal footing;

ii) the welfare of the children involved is safeguarded; and

iii) distress to all parties is minimised;

c) so far as is practicable, in ways which are proportionate:

i) to the gravity and complexity of the issues; and

ii) to the nature and extent of the intervention proposed in the private and family life of the children and adults involved."


I emphasise that none of this is new to the Principal Registry and that the Senior District Judge has recently renewed the scheme in operation at that court (see: District Judge's Direction (Children: Conciliation) [2004] 1 FLR 974 and before that Practice Direction (Conciliation: Children) [1992] 1 FLR 228).


In accordance with rule 8.1(5) of the Family Proceedings Rules 1991 an appeal of this kind is heard in private unless the court otherwise directs. Neither party asked me to open the court during their discussions as to the welfare of A or their own private and family life and on this occasion I have not considered it appropriate to do so. I am, however, invited to give my judgment in open court so that the record in respect of some factual issues may be set straight and so that the public might have confidence that the system of family justice is fair and is not wrongly cloaked in unnecessary or inappropriate secrecy.


This latter invitation is opposed by Mr Posnansky on behalf of Mrs Quinn and I have determined the question shortly and from first principles as follows. Family appeals and indeed most family proceedings are heard in private as statutory exceptions to the principle of open and accountable justice. It is not necessary to describe those exceptions in this urgent and necessarily short judgment.


The exceptions exist alongside competing rights that may on the facts of any one case lead to a decision to hear that case in public or perhaps more usually give a judgment in public. The rights...

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    ...of his "pact with the court" (as Stanley Burnton LJ put it). The other is the McCartney situation. That was best explained by Ryder J in Blunkett v Quinn [2004] EWHC 2816 (Fam), [2005] 1 FLR 648, at para 22: "In considering the competing rights [under Articles 6, 8 and 10], I have come to ......
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