High Court hearing about baby Catlin today
Well, I headed off up North for a couple of weeks disconected fron the internet just as the biggest mainstream media news story about fathers and the Family Court in months was breaking, and returned to find our most active discussion to date.
The UK based group Parents For Protest have a comprehensive collection of links to news stories about the Jelicich case on their website, howevewr, here are a few extracts from reports made over the past fortnight.
Supporters of an Auckland father in hiding with his 5-month-old daughter want an investigation into the Family Court handling of the custody case that sparked his actions.
Jim Bagnall, national president of the parental support group Union of Fathers, said important evidence was not considered before the Family Court gave custody of Caitlin to Mrs Jelicich and ruled that the case should be heard in Britain.
Mr Bagnall, who supported Mr Jelicich during the Family Court process, believes the hearings were rushed because it was Christmas.
“I think people were loath to get themselves embroiled in something … and they rushed it through.
“Why should Caitlin not receive better treatment? Why did they bulldoze the whole thing through?”
He said the judge who remanded Mrs Jelicich on the assault charge was the same judge who had awarded her custody of Caitlin the previous day. Mr Bagnall has written to Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier about his concerns.
Diane Jelicich has extended an olive branch to her estranged husband, who is in hiding with their five-month-old daughter, Caitlin.
The Welsh cardio-thoracic nurse is promising to let New Zealander Stephen Jelicich, whom she met on the internet, share Caitlin’s life if he hands her to police.
Union of Fathers spokesman Jim Bagnall said he knew of hundreds of cases in which children were forced apart from one parent because the other parent lived elsewhere.
He believed courts unfairly favoured mothers in custody battles.
Union of Fathers national president Jim Bagnall said last night that he had advised Mr Jelicich to go on the run with Caitlin after his failed Family Court bid for custody.
“I said if you want to make the point, you’ve got one option,” he said.
“However, at 39 years old, Mr Jelicich was a mature man who could make up his own mind whether to run.”
On 14th January, NewstalkZB reported that the Union of Fathers group is surprised
more men have not resorted to going into hiding with their children over concerns about custody cases.
Spokesman Darryl Carlin says it is desperation that often leads men into taking this type of action.
He says he is constantly surprised fathers generally are as patient as they are but says incidents like this could become more common unless the court system is changed.
However, Mr Carlin says the Union of Fathers cannot encourage men to break the law by going into hiding with their children when they do not have custody.
A group of Mr Jelicich’s supporters mounted a protest on 19th Jan outside Waitakere District Court, where the case was originally heard.
Union of Fathers spokesman Jim Bagnall said Mr Jelicich’s supporters believed he had not got a fair hearing so far in his custody dispute with his estranged wife, Diane Jelicich.
“What was he supposed to do?” he said.
“He did what any loving father would do.”
Mr Bagnall argued that courts often treated fathers unfairly and Mr Jelicich would not have been given another chance if he had not acted as he did.
“I think it has led to public interest in the case and the authorities are trying to look as though they are actually doing something on behalf of Caitlin.”
Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier took the unusual step of releasing information from the court file yesterday, because he said the media had not reported the case fairly.
The file shows that, on December 1, Mr Jelicich applied for an order preventing Caitlin’s removal from New Zealand. She was due to return on January 10 to Wales.
Although this order was initially granted, the judge set it aside at a subsequent hearing on December 24, enabling either parent to return to Wales with Caitlin.
The court also made co-parenting arrangements until January 10, as agreed to by both parents.
Judge Boshier said Mr Jelicich applied to stay this order on January 5 because he wished to appeal against it.
The application was heard on January 6 by Judge John Adams, who declined to interfere with the previous judge’s order.
“Judge Adams took the view that if there was to be a contest as to Caitlin’s custody, it should occur in Wales, because that was Caitlin’s homeland,” Judge Boshier said.
Judge Boshier said that, in the two hearings in which orders were made, the judges considered evidence from both parties. They also had the benefit of submissions from lawyers for each parent to assist in making their decisions. Caitlin was represented by her own lawyer.
However Stuart Birks takes issue with Judge Boshier’s claim that the media will now be able to report the case fairly:
when Vivienne Ullrich, now a Family Court Judge, was the Law Commissioner
responsible for Report 82, Dispute Resolution in the Family Court .
The report suggests that gender bias would have to be observed through judicial decisions, but, in paragraph 1021, these are dismissed as a meaningful source: “Statistical assessments based on such judgements may not be valid. The judge selects facts to background his or her decision,
and this selection can distort the information that was actually available to the judge.”
Needless to say, we cannot expect the public to see Judge Adams’ reasons if the decision presents a selected, and possibly distorted picture of the evidence.
Meanwhile, the British Government has invoked the Hague Convention, through New Zealand authorities, in an attempt to have Caitlin returned to Wales.
A Queen’s Counsel appointed by the Ministry of Justice has filed proceedings in the Waitakere Family Court.
The convention is an international treaty that aims to return children to the country in which they usually reside so custody issues can be resolved there.
Mr Jelicich’s lawyer, Rod Hooker, told NZPA this morning he did not know when the application would be heard, as he had not yet seen the papers filed.
“It is fair to say that the Family Court always gives Hague Convention cases priority, but the Family Court is inundated with priority cases,” he said.
“I think maybe four to six weeks would be the best-case scenario.”
Mr Hooker said there were two key issues in relation to the Hague Convention application.
“What is the place of habitual residence?
“Secondly, the courts do not send a child back if there is a grave risk to the child. We would argue that there is a grave risk.”
A hearing about the future of baby Catlin Jelicich is being held in the High Court today to decide if the custody case should be heard in Wales or New Zealand.