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10 APR 2007

Miscarriage of Justice

In Hammerton v Hammerton [2007] EWCA Civ 248 on 23 March 2007, the Court of Appeal stated that the appellant father had been wrongly imprisoned for contempt of court because of a 'sorry story of administrative and judicial errors'. Mr Hammerton, who was unrepresented, had applied for contact while his former wife had applied for his committal for breach of previous contact orders. Judge Collins, sitting at Central London Civil Justice Centre, heard both cases together and gave Mr Hammerton a three-month sentence, of which he served half.

Lord Justice Wall and Lord Justice Moses said, amongst other matters, that no-one should be sent to prison without the benefit of legal advice and representation at public expense. They were also sufficiently concerned about the conduct of the whole case to have decided to send copies of their judgments to the President of the Family Division and to the Family Division Liaison Judge for Greater London: 'The former might like to consider whether it raises any issues which could properly be discussed by the Family Justice Council: the latter may well wish to investigate further and to consider what steps are necessary to prevent a recurrence of each and every one of the regrettable events which have characterised this appeal.'

A week later on 30 March 2007 Mr Hammerton was imprisoned once more for contempt for throwing three eggs at Mr Justice Collins a few days after the Court of Appeal judgment. One struck the judge and Mr Hammerton then began to read out from the Court of Appeal decision. Sentencing him to two months imprisonment Mr Justice Ryder said that in any other circumstances Mr Hammerton would have been jailed for three. For further details of Hammerton v Hammerton see Cases below.

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