Adoption order overturned after judge behaved badly

Jonathan Ames, Legal Editor

October 29 2019, The Times

An adoption ruling has been overturned after the judge was accused of shouting and storming out of the court during a hearing.

A lawyer and a guardian for the child complained about the behaviour of Judge Najma Mian, who was accused of having crossed the line with her “intemperate” behaviour.

Naomi Hobbs, the barrister who represented the one-year-old girl, appealed against Judge Mian’s ruling that she should be placed in care pending an adoption.

Judge Mark Rogers, who heard the appeal, said that the original ruling was based on reasonable legal rationale. However, the judgment was overturned on the grounds that Judge Mian’s behaviour during the five-day hearing was a breach of procedure.

Judge Rogers ruled at the family court in Nottingham that Judge Mian had “crossed the line” of acceptable judicial behaviour during the case.

Ms Hobbs, who was instructed by a guardian who represented the interests of the child, accused Judge Mian of using “blasphemous words”, shouting, storming out of court, being sarcastic and “shaking with rage”.

Judge Rogers found that the original hearing “amounted to a serious procedural irregularity”. In his ruling, he said that the barrister also accused Judge Mian of sitting with her back to the court during the first hearing and then “mimicking the advocate’s words and intimidating the guardian”.

He said it appeared that Judge Mian’s frustration during the initial hearing “seems to have stemmed from her view that the guardian’s analysis was non-existent or deficient”.

Judge Rogers said that the original judge seemed to take the view that “the guardian had not grappled with the central issue of the case”.

Regardless of that view, Judge Rogers agreed with the child’s barrister that the treatment of the guardian was unacceptable. He added that at one stage Judge Mian herself “effectively cross-examined the guardian as if she were representing another hostile party”.

He added: “In my judgment, there and in many places elsewhere, the judge went far beyond clarification or amplification and descended into the heart of the arena. I am quite satisfied that the judge on this occasion crossed the line and that the hearing amounted to a serious procedural irregularity.”

He said that he had “no wish to embarrass or discomfort the judge”.