F v M [2021] (Domestic Abuse: Similar Fact Evidence) EWFC 4

 The need for fact finding arose in relation to the father’s (F) application for contract with his 6 and 3-year-old children who lived with their mother (M). The case was transferred to the High Court following a successful appeal overturning a case management decision to exclude similar fact evidence in relation to a second relationship. As a result of this Court of Appeal Decision, the court also heard about the father’s subsequent relationship with a 40-year-old woman and her 2 children.

In the instant case Hayden J stated that considering both cases together “illuminate the sinister, domineering” behaviour that would “not have been fully appreciated had the cases been severed” [5]. Following a detailed analysis of the allegations of controlling and coercive behaviour in which it was found M was “subjected to a brutalising, dehumanising regime by which F subjugated her and was profoundly corrosive of her autonomy” [64].

In concluding that F was a “profoundly dangerous young man…to women … and children” [101] Hayden J considered the definitions provided by section 76 Serious Crime Act 2015 and FPR 2010 PDJ12J [105-109]. He said that an “overly formulaic analysis may ultimately obfuscate rather than illuminate the behaviour” [108]. Hayden J stressed that there will frequently be clues, hints, indicators and triggers in what people report which might stimulate wider forensic curiosity and precipitate investigations of greater subtlety and nuance [112].

The full judgment can be accessed here.