Charles Ronald Gibbs v Jean Patricia Gibbs

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtFamily Division
JudgeMr Justice Hayden
Judgment Date29 Jun 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] EWHC 1700 (Fam)
Docket NumberCase No: ZC17P00627

[2017] EWHC 1700 (Fam)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

FAMILY DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

Mr Justice Hayden

Case No: ZC17P00627

Between:
Charles Ronald Gibbs
Applicant
and
Jean Patricia Gibbs
Respondent

Ms Illsley (instructed by Metcalffe Copeman & Pettefar LLP) for the Applicant

Mrs Gibbs appeared unrepresented

Hearing dates: 29 th June 2017

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 Hayden Mr Justice Hayden
1

This is an application made on behalf of the Reverend Charles Ronald Gibbs to commit his ex wife, Jean Patricia Gibbs, to prison for breach of the order of Mrs Justice Roberts dated 19 th June 2017. It is a case with a dispiriting history, some of which is necessary for me to set out in this judgment so that the orders made by Roberts J may have context.

2

I start with the hearing which took place before District Judge Hayes in the Norwich County Court now as long ago as 13 th March 2001. Those were private law proceedings, concerning the couple's two children. The central issue concerned contact by the father to his children, which was strenuously resisted by the mother. Before the judge was able to determine what the progression of contact should be, it was necessary for him to resolve a series of allegations brought by the mother. Over a period of two days the judge addressed that task assiduously and was able, on the 13 th March, to provide the parties a written judgment in which he set out the evidence that he had heard and the conclusions he had arrived at. In the final passages of his judgment he noted that there was 'a lot of evidence before him'. He identified significant aspects of it and, in particular, what he found to be helpful corroborative support from 'third parties and outside documents'. It led him to an unambiguous conclusion which he expressed as follows:

"I have no doubt that the evidence I prefer is that of the applicant father. I simply cannot recognise and reconcile the demeanour of Mr Gibbs and what I saw, with what he is alleged to have done. On conflicts of evidence I prefer Mr Gibbs, I am satisfied he is doing his best to tell the truth, although he says he is not perfect."

3

He continued:

"The difficulty is that I don't think Mrs Gibbs is right in her version of the facts, but she believes she is right. She indicated that if I don't think he is guilty of emotional abuse I will have made a mistake. I don't think I have. She said she might appeal, she has the right but she must bear in mind I make my decision on the wealth of evidence I have read and heard. I think both may have abused emotionally. Children should be protected from the battle of wills. Both parties need to put the interests of the children first."

4

The judge expressed what proved to be an entirely forlorn hope that the ' unfinished business now having been aired would assist the parties to move on'. Sadly, it did not. The judge indicated the mother had a right to appeal and she elected to pursue it. The appeal came before HHJ Barham sitting at the Norwich County Court. In a concise written judgment, dated 16 th May 2001, the Judge analysed the Grounds of Appeal which were drafted by the Appellant personally. I note that the Judge had sight of the typed Note of Judgment drafted by District Judge Hayes. The appeal was rejected as disclosing no error of law, fact or procedure.

5

One might have hoped that that would have been the end of the matter but, again, it was not. Barely 12 months later the case found itself back before the Court, this time before the High Court, Family Division. At that hearing, before Mr Justice Munby, as he then was, the mother was represented by counsel and solicitors, so too was the father. By this stage the children were also represented. The local authority had intervened. Events took an unanticipated turn. At the doors of the court the mother's counsel conceded on her behalf that the available evidence filed in the proceedings, taken at its highest, had no prospect of establishing the allegations that the mother had initially sought to pursue. A Consent Order was placed before the Court which was scrutinised by the Judge in a short judgment which has been transcribed and filed in this application. The preface to the order records that it was acknowledged specifically by the mother 'that she was afforded the opportunity to pursue the allegations but did not seek to do so'. Secondly, it was recorded that the mother:

"accepts that by not raising any allegations of emotional, physical or sexual abuse against Mr Gibbs the contact between [B] and her father should proceed on the basis that all the allegations are unfounded"

6

Thirdly, the Order recorded that the mother 'should not seek to raise any allegations of emotional, physical or sexual abuse against the Reverend Gibbs in any other forum with any other person or body and specifically including Mr Gibb's employers', the Methodist Church. Finally, it was expressly acknowledged that 'contact between the younger child B and her father should proceed on the basis of the concessions made by the mother that day'.

7

Though the case had in effect settled, by the agreement of the parties, Mr Justice Munby nonetheless delivered a short judgment. Aspects of that judgment require to be highlighted:

"The advice which mother has received and the decision which the mother has taken seem to me to be entirely appropriate in the circumstances. These matters must now once and for all finally be laid to rest. That, as I understand it, is the basis on which I am being invited to approve this order. I am sure that I do not have to say this, but it is important for the parties to appreciate that this is intended to be a final order which maps out into the foreseeable future the pattern of father's contact with B and, equally importantly, B's contact with her father."

8

Later the Judge recorded that both the mother and father:

"have taken a brave decision, and a decision which in many respects and for different reasons must have been difficult for each of them, [they] are to be congratulated and thanked for agreeing to this order. I hope that each of them will join with me in thanking the lawyers collectively, and indeed the other professionals involved, whose input and assistance I have little doubt has done much to bring this about."

9

There was therefore no doubt that the mother had received clear advice, that it was identifiably, on the available evidence, correct, and that the understanding of the parties as to the significance of the order was investigated and established to the satisfaction of the Judge.

10

Just as DJ Hayes had hoped that this corrosive litigation might end with him, Mr Justice Munby expressed the view that the case would conclude there. It did not, it next came before Mr Justice Johnson scarcely 6 months later, in November 2002. The arrangements made in respect of contact had already fallen into difficulty. In his judgment dated 3 rd July 2003 Mr Justice Johnson expressed himself with characteristic lack of ambiguity. He said this:

"Having seen the mother give evidence now on more than one occasion, I do not find it at all surprising that she did not abide by the agreement she had made. In my judgment, and I find, she never intended to abide by the agreement. The inference that I draw from what has happened is that the allegations against the father were without any substance and were unfounded. I find that the mother had no genuine belief in them."

11

Johnson J went on to say he was satisfied that:

"The mother continued to repeat the allegations not only to B but also to friends and people in the local community. I am told that prior to this hearing it was said by some in her community that 'truth would out at this hearing'. The truth is that these allegations are unfounded, as the mother had agreed. They have always been vehemently denied by the father. They have been investigated and the outcome is clear. These allegations are false. The mother knows it but continues to publish them because she wishes to hurt the father. At the beginning of this hearing the father told me that the mother had attended court with a number of supporters, one of whom had threatened to take steps to deprive the father of his office in Holy Orders. I caused that person to be brought into court to take the oath. He denied having threatened the father, but from the manner in which he spoke and his demeanour I did not accept his denial. It needs to be made plain that those who attend court are entitled to the protection of the court. These cases relating to children are full of emotional tension, and anyone who could speak in the way that that man spoke demonstrates their lack of understanding of human nature." (my emphasis)

12

Johnson J's message was entirely unequivocal but in common with the Judges who had preceded him he too was unable to effect an end to the litigation. Though the Court had been determined to ensure that B had a relationship with her father, the orders for contact, foundered, once again, on the rocks of the mother's intransigence. On 11 th October 2004 the case came before Mr Justice Ryder, as he then was. His Order of that date is prefaced by the following recording:

"And upon the court accepting that the agreement by the applicant father to the making of an order for indirect contact does not at all adversely reflect upon his integrity nor upon his proper wish to work towards the restoration of direct...

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2 cases
  • Jean Patricia Gibbs v Charles Ronald Gibbs
    • United Kingdom
    • Family Division
    • 5 Agosto 2020
    ...H applied for committal of W to prison for breach of the order. 25 On 29 June 2017 Hayden J committed W to prison Gibbs v Gibbs [2017] EWHC 1700 (Fam). He set out in great detail at J22 all the emails that had been sent in breach of the order. I repeat the list in order to show the intensi......
  • Jean Patricia Gibbs v Charles Ronald Gibbs
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 31 Agosto 2017
    ...of Roberts J dated 19 June 2017 which was reinforced with a penal notice. 3 The judgment of Hayden J is to be found at Gibbs v Gibbs [2017] EWHC 1700 (Fam). In his judgment, Hayden J sets out in detail, which it is not necessary for me to repeat, the lengthy procedural history of this matte......

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