Judge criticises runaway mother for custody battle publicity stunt

By Lenore Rice

Rebecca Minnock, who ran away with her 3 year old son, Ethan, after losing a custody battle with his father Roger Williams, has appeared in court after handing herself in.

Judge Stephen Wildblood QC criticised Ms Minnock and her family for their actions, and said they manipulated the media by allowing some of the details about the custody battle to be made public while she was in hiding. Rebecca's mother Louise and her mother's partner, Andrew Butt, have both been jailed for helping her run away and keeping her whereabouts secret. The judge said that Mr Butt had said in evidence that Rebecca had sought to manipulate the press once she did not receive the outcome she wanted from the residency custody battle with her son's father.

Wildblood alluded to the "huge amounts of time, effort and money" spent on Ms Minnock's case, and said it was "simply unfair for a party to attempt to use the press in an attempt to deny another person justice." In particular he said, it was an "utterly irresponsible way to behave from the point of view of the welfare of a child".

The judge also suggested that the public are not fully informed on the case, having only heard Ms Minnock's case, and not the details of the 2 court hearings in which allegations made by her against the father were rejected. He said that she had "positively invented allegations against the father on two occasions in an attempt to stop him having any contact or relationship with the child."

Wildblood considered it a "difficult task" to now sort out the "future arrangements for Ethan", but said he will try to keep the public informed to avoid "misunderstandings". He has repeated that his main goal is to ensure that Ethan "has an effective relationship with both of his parents."

A private hearing on 26th June will try to decide the arrangements for contact between Ethan and his mother, and whether Rebecca Minnick should face any contempt proceedings for breaching court orders over the residential arrangements for Ethan.

If you require legal advice from a family law solicitor in Northern Ireland on a child residency or contact matter, call Wilson Nesbitt in Belfast or Bangor by calling 0800 840 9292.

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