Courtroom Violence Father Receives Mercy

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A father who attacked his ex-wife and an usher in a courtroom explosion of rage as his decade-long battle for custody of his son collapsed has been shown mercy by the country’s most senior family judge – who, in declining to jail him, found that he had ‘suffered enough’.

The father had repeatedly punched his ex-wife and hit the usher who tried to restrain him in the midst of a family court hearing. He was subsequently jailed for 20 months at the Crown Court after he admitted inflicting actual bodily harm and assault. He was also brought before the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, to face two allegations of contempt.

His lawyers argued that the violent outburst was entirely out of character and had been triggered by his acute emotional distress at learning that a residence order had been made in his ex-wife’s favour. It was pointed out that his behaviour had cost him his livelihood and would gravely affect his chances of future contact with his son.

Sir James said that violence in court could not be tolerated but acknowledged that the father ‘might be forgiven for thinking that the system had failed him’. He told the father, “You have, in my judgment, been punished enough and, therefore, beyond finding contempt, I am not going to make any order. You will have to continue to serve the sentence imposed on you in the Crown Court but my view is that you have suffered, and continue to suffer, enough.”