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Top judge to review decade-long dispute over father’s access to daughter

Sir James Munby to analyse evidence following dozens of hearings at six courts in two areas of England.

The most senior family court judge in England and Wales is to review a separated couple’s decade-long dispute over access to their daughter after an appeal by the youngster’s father.

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court, says he will analyse the case in detail in the near future at a family court hearing.

He outlined his plan at a preliminary hearing in London on Thursday after the girl’s father asked him to read the case file.

The man raised concern about his case during the summer of 2017 in the wake of an academics’ report which said people were being left with a “patchy understanding” of the family justice system because judges were not consistently following guidance on the publication of case rulings.

It does seem to me that this is a situation where there is a crying need to make one final effort to get some resolution Sir James Munby

He said he had spent more than £500,000 on lawyers and dozens of hearings had been staged in six courts in two different areas of England before numerous judges.

But he said every hearing had been held in private and not one judge’s ruling had been published despite judicial heads launching a drive for family court transparency.

The man, who has a home in Norwich, said his daughter, now 10, lived with her mother.

He said he wanted to spend more time with the girl and she wanted to spend more time with him and he complained that judges had not listened to the child.

The man said he did not think that justice had been done to him or his daughter.

He called on Sir James to read the case file and said: “I’d like Sir James to see if he thinks the process has been fair and transparent.”

Lawyers representing the man say Sir James’ review is “good news”.

“This has been going on for a very long time,” said Sir James at Thursday’s preliminary hearing.

“It does seem to me that this is a situation where there is a crying need to make one final effort to get some resolution.”

He added: “This is a case which, for whatever reason, has been in and out of court on a very large number of occasions.”

Sir James considered issues at a private hearing.

He said detail could be reported but that the girl could not be identified in media reports.

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