Thanet mum’s horrific Family Court experience features in Channel 4 Dispatches investigation

The mum won her right to appeal the original family court ruling

A Channel 4  investigation will include the experiences of a young Thanet mum who was left sobbing after family court judge HHJ Richard Scarratt made “wholly inappropriate comments” during a contact hearing.

Dispatches investigation Torn Apart: Family Courts Uncovered will be screened on Channel 4 next Tuesday (July 20) at 10pm.

A two year investigation was carried out by the team to reveal what goes on behind closed doors in the family courts. The programme includes shocking personal testimony, footage of children being forcibly removed from safe, loving homes at midnight and the results of a questionnaire of family court users and family lawyers. #

Reporter Louise Tickle asks what changes are needed and whether judges should be held to account.


One of the cases included is the Thanet mum who was one of four at the centre of a  landmark hearing  concerning domestic abuse cases in the family courts. The hearing was attended and reported on by Louise Tickle.

The Thanet mum won her appeal after the presiding judge at her original case was heavily criticised for his ” wholly inappropriate comments” and attitude.

The young mum’s case centred around her child and a contact agreement with the father which the Royal Court of Appeal accepts she did not make freely.

Her appeal to the Royal Court was against the ruling made by HHJ Richard Scarratt on 5 August 2019 which resulted in a consent order setting out time to be spent between the father and the child.

The mother’s representation said the judge was wrong to make an order by consent when there were unresolved allegations of serious domestic abuse, including rape. The appeal highlighted ‘wholly inappropriate comments’ made by HHJ Scarratt during an earlier hearing in March 2019 where the mother was threatened that: “if this goes on the child will be taken into care and adopted’.

During the appeal court hearing a tape of proceedings was played to judges, President of the Family Division Sir Andrew McFarlane, Lady Justice Eleanor King and Lord Justice Tim Holroyde, where the mum could be heard sobbing following the judge’s comments.

In the Judgement issued by the Royal Court of Appeal on March 30 it says: “The judge’s unguarded comments, made to the mother, not only to have her child taken from her but to have her adopted and, on two further occasions, to refer the case to social services, have to be regarded as having had long lasting repercussions for her.

“It is clear that the parties were discussing settlement before they came into court in August 2019; that was hardly surprising given the appalling litigation history and the judge’s attitude towards the mother as demonstrated in March. It is hard to see how the mother, faced with the prospect of a hearing in front of the same judge, would have felt herself to have retained any real negotiating boundaries about contact.

“ One can understand that the mother may have felt that she had little option but to settle, particularly given the judge’s opening remarks questioning the point of a fact-finding hearing and his refusal to hear the allegations of controlling and coercive behaviour.

“It is with reluctance that we reach this conclusion. It is well known that judges sitting in the Family Court are, and have been for some considerable time, over-worked. There was good reason for the judge to express frustration that none of the essential case management preparations for the hearing had been undertaken.

“There was however no justification for the judge to say that ‘if this goes on the child will be taken into care and adopted’. Nor was there any justification for the judge twice referring to the possibility of reporting the case to social services.”

The hearing in January at The Royal Court of Appeal – the second highest court in operation –considered how four family court cases, where rape, domestic abuse and/or coercive control allegations were involved, were dealt with.

Three of the cases were upheld for appeal and one case was not determined.

The Court of Appeal also gave guidance that old fashioned views about controlling and coercive behaviour are no longer acceptable in the family court and that judgments that fail expressly to consider the relevance of coercive control may be appealable.

As a direct result of the Court of Appeal review the Judicial College is developing new training covering the impact of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and the guidance given at the appeal court hearing.

The Dispatches programme producer Anna Hall said of the investigation: “What’s driven all of us is trying to tell stories we are not legally allowed to tell.

“We hope that in making this film the light will be shone into places where there is no public scrutiny – thousands of people going through the Family Courts every year are gagged.”

Thanet mum wins landmark appeal over Family Court hearing where Kent judge ‘made a number of wholly inappropriate comments’

Thanet mum ‘sobbed’ as Family Court Judge said child would be adopted if case ‘went on and on,’ Appeal Judges hear

Thanet mum ‘failed’ by family courts one of four cases at centre of ‘landmark’ legal review


  1. Judges need sorting out big time. They like to come across as holier than thou. However London taxi drivers will tell you what judges get up to after they take their wig off. Some judges are alcoholics who like to meet the woman or men of the night. I remember how the one judge was a close friend of a criminal and was smuggling contraband into Ramsgate Harbour as exposed in the newspapers. Judges really do think they are untouchable. Well they are not they should be voted in and out after 5 years and dismissed soon if they are not suitable like those in any other job.

  2. er – just a minute bill , i notice that school teacher you were praising up is also a magistrate , or dont that count in your observations ?

  3. All judges should be made more accountable and only voted in if they they look as if they can do their job right, and sacked if they are not suitable. No one is untouchable including judges.

  4. I had a judge give the police wrong information saying molestation order was invalid and it was not. The police acting on wrong information had the solicitors cancel. As I said it was not and a judge said it was I had to tell the majestrates. I was assertive but it was very hard work and not everyone can take on a system that has made a critical error. The police and judge and solicitor was wrong. I had to force the molestation order to prove it was vavid. So yes its
    hard to complain about a judge as you are not believed if right.

  5. I experienced this myself first hand, with family courts! And a social worker telling me if the amosity between myself and ex partner who got done for assault&battery against myself, my child would get taken into care and be adopted!!! They’re vile!!! I’ve had four years of hell with Canterbury combined court… Am willing to issue my story if papers contact me!

  6. They should have to get actual proof of any abuse not just hearsay and possible or assumptions!! Actual evidence!!

    • In three of the initial four cases, the claimant was in possession of an abundance of proof and the claims were supported by the Court of Appeal. It is more likely than not that Counsel that supported the local woman (through direct access) will obtain all the proof necessary in relation to all other claimants before making any statement of claim on their behalf, too.

  7. I have factual recordings of the corrupt and wrongful behaviour of the family court and social services. The judge allowed the recording to take place.

  8. What’s amiss here are the crimes of the “social” services. All I read is “he said, she said”. Previous partners going at each other’s throats.
    What “social” services and other agencies are up to should have been included here. As well the doings of this so-called “Tipstaff” office on the basement of the High Court on the Strand in London. Please, investigate them.

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