Publication of 'Sheikh' rulings of international public interest
By Nicola Laver
A final attempt by the ruler of Dubai to block the court’s publication of judgments relating to proceedings concerning two of his children has failed.
In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court refused Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s application for permission to appeal earlier decisions of the family court allowing their publication.
The judgments have been made publicly available and reveal serious findings of fact made against the Sheikh.
Responding to the ruling, Anna-Laura Lock, senior associate at Winckworth Sherwood, said: “While judgments can be published on anonymised basis, the Sheikh’s global and political prominence, and the severity of his actions towards his wife and children, demonstrate that no one, including him, is beyond reproach as far as the law is concerned.”
In his fact-finding judgment in proceedings relating to the Sheikh’s two youngest children, who were aged 12 and seven at the time, President of the Family Division Sir Andrew McFarlane found that the Sheikh “acted in a manner… aimed at intimidating and frightening the mother, and that he has encouraged others to do so on his behalf”.
He was found to have kidnapped two of his older children; and mounted a campaign of intimidation against his sixth wife, Princess Haya.
In a separate ruling as to whether the fact-finding judgment should be made public, Sir McFarlane said the issue included “matters of genuine international public interest”.
He concluded that publication of the judgments was not only desirable but necessary to meet the requirements of Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
Lock said the public interest in the decision to publish the judgments is clear.
“Where findings have been made about such severe behaviour and intimidation”, she commented, “not least by a head of state, his arguments that the parties’ privacy should be protected by not publishing the judgments were almost inevitably going to fail.”
While the facts of the case are extreme and involve one of the most powerful men in the world, Lock added: “The types of behaviour (intimidation, threats, child abduction) are, unfortunately, prevalent in everyday life and therefore feature often in the family justice system.”
There are growing calls for greater transparency in the family courts, where proceedings are held in private.
Lock said: “It is felt that this can be achieved by publishing judgments where it is deemed in the public interest.
“The signs are that the judiciary are taking note of these requests and concerns, and the publication of the judgment today is evidence of this.”