Judge refuses police request for evidence from family dispute centred on the care of children

A judge has refused to hand a police force evidence from a private family court dispute involving a woman and her estranged husband.

Thames Valley Police wanted documents used in family court proceedings to help with an investigation involving the woman and man.

But the judge who oversaw the family court litigation has refused the force’s application for “disclosure”.

Judge Joanna Vincent also said the force should pick up bills of more than £6,000 the woman had run up on lawyers as a result of the application.

She said the woman had been “put to expense unnecessarily”.

The judge, who indicated that family court litigation had centred on the care of children, said police had not provided “any evidence” to support their application.

She outlined the reasons for her decision in a ruling published online after considering the police application at a recent private hearing at a family court in Oxford.

“I am not persuaded that I should sanction disclosure of documents to the police in this case,” she said, in a written ruling.

“It would be improper for the court to exercise its discretion in the absence of any evidence from the applicant supporting its application.

“Supporting evidence is not merely a technical requirement, it is necessary in order for the court to undertake the balancing exercise required … ”

Judge Vincent said she had been told, by a lawyer representing police, that the detective in charge of the investigation “had been on rest days in advance of the hearing”.

The judge said that was why there was no “statement in support”.

She added: “It seems that it had been anticipated that the application would be agreed.”

Judge Vincent said the man and woman had separated nearly two years ago after he assaulted her.

The man had admitted assault and been made subject to a restraining order.

Family court proceedings had begun shortly after that.

The judge said she had ruled that the man should not have any contact with his children, due to the “risks he posed to both them and their mother”.

She indicated that the woman had made “recordings” which she had given to police and social workers.

Those recordings were said to include evidence of the man making threats to “kill” the woman.

Judge Vincent said police had asked for disclosure of “statements” and “documents” which made “reference to any covert recordings” obtained by the woman and to “any threat of harm” made by the man towards the woman.

Police also wanted a copy of the judge’s “final judgment”.

Solicitor Tracey Tinsley, who represented Thames Valley Police, had told the judge that the application had been made “at the direction of the Crown Prosecution Service to assist with the decision-making process” relating to whether to bring charges against the man for “threats to kill” the woman, and whether to bring charges against the woman for “stalking and computer misuse in respect of” the man.

The judge said the children at the centre of the family court litigation could not be identified in media reports of the case.

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