Setfords lawyer believed to have made legal history after judge rules in ‘exceptional’ family law case

A leading family lawyer is believed to have made legal history after findings against her client were quashed and a new hearing granted, five years after the original case.

Within the family courts, parties are normally given just 21 days to appeal.

But in what’s believed to be an unprecedented case, Joanna Abrahams, Head of Family at Setfords Solicitors, argued the handling of the issue by a District Judge was so poor, that the findings against her client should be dropped and a new hearing granted.

Mr Justice Francis agreed, granting leave for an appeal ‘out of time’ and quashing the original judgement from 2015.

Within the ruling about the “Re D” case, published on Bailii on May 14, 2020, Mr Justice Francis said only exceptional circumstances would justify allowing an appeal after such a long period of time.

He added that “the District Judge’s findings are so unsafe and their consequences so serious that I cannot allow them to stand.”

Within the judgement, Mr Justice Francis also said of the original case that “there is a serious risk that the decision was wrong and that there was a serious procedural irregularity in the proceedings in the lower court.”

The case, which led to a father being banned from any contact with his child, will be re-heard in the High Court later in the year.

No criminals charges have ever been brought in the case.

Ms Abrahams, who has represented her client since 2018, said: “This is an unprecedented moment in family law and I am proud to be a part of it.

“My client has not been able to have contact with his child for over five years, and he is greatly relieved that Mr Justice Francis has said this finding should not stand. We await the new hearing later in the year.”