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Campaigner’s secret jailing concerns after father named only as ‘Eugene L’

Former MP John Hemming thinks that a judge has broken rules relating to contempt of court proceedings.

A campaigner has raised concern after a man jailed for breaching orders made in family courts was named only as “Eugene L” in a judge’s ruling.

Former Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming thinks that Recorder Martyn Royall has broken rules, laid down by judicial heads in a bid to ensure that no-one is jailed in secret, by not fully identifying the man.

The man was given a six-month prison term at a High Court hearing in Canterbury, Kent, on November 24.

A ruling on the case has recently been published on the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (Bailii) website.

The ruling explains how the man had been embroiled in private family court litigation relating to his son.

Social services bosses at Medway Council said the man had publicly identified his son in breach of judges’ orders.

Recorder Royall ruled in their favour and concluded that the man was in contempt of court.

His ruling lists the case as “Medway Council and Eugene L”.

Judicial heads have twice in recent years laid down rules relating to procedures judges must follow when considering applications to commit people to jail for contempt.

In March 2015 Lord Thomas, then the Lord Chief Justice and most senior judge in England and Wales, said “open justice” was a “fundamental principle”.

He said the general rule was that committal hearings were staged in public, people involved were identified and rulings were given in public.

“The rules say people must be named on listings of cases and named in judgments,” said Mr Hemming, who campaigns for improvements in the family justice system.

“Publishing a judgment which names someone as ‘Eugene L’ surely does not comply.

“This man’s name is not ‘Eugene L’. I don’t know if there is actually anyone in the world called ‘Eugene L’.

“If there’s argument for not identifying him then the media should be informed of that and everyone given a proper chance to discuss the issue.

“But the answer can’t be to simply name him as ‘Eugene L’.”

He added: “People must not be jailed in secret and regardless of whether cases are listed in public, judgments are vitally important.

“People, and journalists, cannot realistically get to all of these kind of court hearings.

“Judgments go a long way to ensuring transparency.

“What the judge has done here isn’t right.

“I suppose you might call it translucent justice but it isn’t transparent justice.”

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