A family judge is to be replaced in a case after being overheard on a Zoom call making comments about the mother in a care proceedings hearing.
According to The Law Gazette, Mrs Justice Judd had initially refused an application that she recuse herself from continuing to hear proceedings in respect of the 16-month-old boy.
However in C (A Child)  the Court of Appeal overturned that decision, concluding the judge had made ‘highly critical’ remarks about the mother’s honesty during the course of evidence, which to a person looking in from the outside would demonstrate a real possibility of bias.
The Law Gazette reported that the mistake occurred after the mother complained of feeling unwell with back pain and blurred vision. When she said she was developing a cough, the judge agreed with counsel to allow her to conclude her evidence remotely.
When court rose, an associate took the judge’s closed laptop through to her room but the remote link to the court room remained open. A number of people who remained on the call were therefore able to overhear the judge’s private telephone conversation with her clerk. The judge was overheard saying the mother was pretending to have a cough and was trying ‘every trick in the book’ to avoid answering difficult questions.
The Law Gazette reported that the case was remitted to the family division for directions about proceedings before a fresh judge.