Sunday, 24 May 2015

Word Gets Around

42 year old Mrs Page Abernathy was the Chief Executive Officer and very much the public face of the Keeping Families Together Charity. She created for herself a high celebrity profile and appeared to be a trustworthy public figure. In stark contrast to that public persona she was having an adulterous affair with low profile, Mr Lachlan Tedeschi, a 46 year old litigation lawyer, and also the very high profile and married Mr Herbert Strauss, a 50 year old Chief Executive Officer of the Major Bank.

Art Gallery Opening February 2013
Page Abernathy and Lachlan Tedeschi met at an art gallery opening in February 2013 and immediately struck up a friendship. During their interaction at the art gallery Page was very encouraging of Lachlan and shortly before the function was due to end they went home together to the house of Lachlan Tedeschi.

“My husband understands my affairs, so long as I keep them discreet and he is away a lot on business”, Page told Lachlan, as they were getting to know each other a lot better at his house.

Lachlan replied, “Being discreet is not a problem for me.”

Page: “We can spend a fair bit of time together, work schedules permitting and apart from my husband, you are the only man I am seeing.”

He had no reason to doubt her at the time and she seemed very charming. Their relationship had effectively commenced.

Early the next morning Page Abernathy left the home of Lachlan Tedeschi to return to her home.

Dinner with Friend, Wesley Tunstall
Later that day Lachlan Tedeschi went to work as normal. After work he had dinner with his friend Wesley Tunstall, the nurse, and he told Wesley of what happened the previous evening.

Wesley said, “I have heard of Page Abernathy. She has quite an ability to draw attention to herself. Having a discreet relationship with her would be something of a contrast for her and a challenge for you both, I suspect. I am not surprised to hear her ‘my husband understands my affairs’ line, although it sounds a little cliched and I wonder how accurate that statement may be. Still time will tell, I guess, and ultimately it is a decision for you.”

Lachlan: “It is hard to argue with the cliched observation and as you say, time will tell as to the veracity of her contention in relation to her husband. If history is any guide, we will be discussing this relationship and Page Abernathy from time to time, so we will probably be able to judge the extent to which you are correct.”

Wesley: “I may take a keener interest in the public life of Page Abernathy, now that you have shared your news with me.”

The rest of the evening was uneventful for Lachlan and Wesley and after about another hour, the dinner ended and they each went to their respective homes.

May 2014 Herbert Strauss Appears On The Scene
Page Abernathy and Lachlan Tedeschi spent quite a bit of time together over the next two (2) years, mostly at their respective houses, but sometimes venturing into public together. Because he had spent so much time at her house, Lachlan became quite familiar with it, including where Page kept her diary.

By May 2014 Lachlan noticed something a little unusual in the behaviour of Page Abernathy. The most obvious change was that she spent less time with him than she had done in the preceding months. That behaviour change was due to the arrival of Herbert Strauss on the scene, but Lachlan did not learn of his presence until many months later.

Page Abernathy was not only having an affair with Herbert Strauss, she was also recording significant intimate details of that affair in her diary.

Lachlan was still keeping in touch with Wesley Tunstall and from time to time they would meet to socialise. Discussion of the relationship between Lachlan and Page Abernathy was part of their interaction. Wesley gradually got a clear sense that all was not as well as it could be between Lachlan and Page.

December 2014
By December 2014 Lachlan Tedeschi had a very strong suspicion that Page Abernathy was seeing someone in addition to him and he expressed his concerns to Wesley Tunstall. The diary of Page Abernathy was a part of their discussion by that stage and whether it may contain any details of this possible new man.

Wesley Tunstall: “If you are going to read her diary, you would best do it in circumstances where she is not likely to catch you doing it. I would wait until she is out of the house, if that is possible.”

Lachlan Tedeschi: “I still get invited to her house from time to time, so I will see if any such opportunity arises.”

January 2015
Early January 2015, while Page was out of her house, Lachlan read the diary she kept in her bedside drawers. He discovered entries confirming that Page had been having an adulterous affair with Herbert Strauss.  Lachlan took photographs of the diary entries which described the relationship Page was having with Herbert Strauss in lurid detail.

Once he had taken photographs of the diary entries, he contacted Wesley Tunstall and arranged to meet with him almost immediately. They had a discussion about what Lachlan had discovered and Wesley convinced Lachlan to provide a copy of the photographs to him.

Wesley Tunstall: “I am only telling to you what you have told to me on numerous occasions about controlling and preserving evidence.”

Lachlan Tedeschi: “That is sound advice and I am glad you are giving it to me.”

Within ten (10) minutes Wesley had a copy of the subject photographs on his mobile telephone. That seemed to give some comfort to Lachlan.

Wesley could see that Lachlan was distressed by his discovery and he tried to comfort him, rather than further aggravate him. They stayed together for about ninety (90) minutes and when they parted to return to their respective homes, Lachlan seemed to be in better spirits.

Private Investigator
Wesley Tunstall could see the adverse effect the relationship revelation had upon Lachlan Tedeschi. He decided to take some action of his own and hire a private investigator to enquire into Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss. Wesley had no intention of telling Lachlan of what he was doing, at that stage.

It did not take long for the private investigator to provide photographs to Wesley of the relationship between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss. Once he had the photographs, Wesley discharged the services of the private investigator. He kept the photographs to himself and did not tell Lachlan of any of this activity or discovery.

January 2015
A little later in January 2015 Lachlan Tedeschi confronted Page Abernathy about her affair with Herbert Strauss. A heated argument ensued for several hours. Lachlan agreed to delete the images of the diary of Page, provided she delete the contact details of Herbert Strauss from her iPhone and iPad. The relationship between Page and Lachlan continued.

1 March 2015 - 2 March 2015
However, a few weeks later, on 1 March 2015, Lachlan discovered Page still had the contact details of Herbert Strauss. Lachlan then threatened to expose her affair with Strauss.

Lachlan challenged Page over the affair again saying: "I want to expose you both for what you have done. I have got enough evidence to do that."

After this argument, Page left the house of Lachlan in the early hours of 2 March 2015. Page formed the view that Lachlan did not delete every photo of the diary and had evidence to damage both herself and Herbert Strauss.

Once again Lachlan contacted Wesley Tunstall and told him what had happened with Page Abernathy. Wesley could see that Lachlan was very distressed and he did not wish to distress him further. He did not tell Lachlan about the private investigator and the photographs of the relationship between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss. Wesley thought it best to do that at another time.

After about two (2) hours Lachlan Tedeschi left Wesley Tunstall to go home, seemingly in a better frame of mind.

Legal Action
Page Abernathy started legal action in her local Supreme Court to obtain an interim injunction and gagging order under the Human Rights Act. She sought a ban on the publication of the diary entries to prevent Lachlan Tedeschi from leaking details to the media of her affair with Herbert Strauss.

The application of Page Abernathy proceeded in the absence of both Lachlan Tedeschi and Herbert Strauss.

Page Abernathy argued that

  • The potential damage which could be done, both to her, as a public figure of trust, and to Herbert Strauss, as a public figure who is married to someone else, is enormous
  • If the documents stolen from Page Abernathy and her affair with Herbert Strauss were shared or published in the public domain, “both she and Herbert Strauss would be irreparably damaged, and there would be enormous financial repercussions for both of them”
  • Herbert Strauss is unaware of the present situation
  • She feared it would “tip off” Lachlan Tedeschi and he would publish the diary entries before she could obtain a court order, if she were to notify him of her application for an injunction.

Sitting in the Supreme Court Justice Baldwin-Taylor granted the interim injunction sought by Page Abernathy.

Justice Baldwin-Taylor

  • The hearing was allowed to proceed without Lachlan Tedeschi being present
  • The fears Lachlan Tedeschi would rush publication of the diary entries before it was possible for Page Abernathy to gain the injunction were well founded
  • The right to respect for her private life of Page Abernathy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights outweighed the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 in publishing that private life
  • On the evidence the reasons for publication are motivated by malice entertained by the defendant Lachlan Tedeschi towards the claimant Page Abernathy

Service of The Court Orders
Within a very short time of the Court granting the interim injunction and gag order that Page Abernathy sought, both Lachlan Tedeschi and Herbert Strauss were respectively served with a copy of the orders.

Lachlan was astounded when he read the orders and he contacted Wesley Tunstall almost immediately. Wesley was not working and they agreed to meet about forty (40) minutes later. Wesley took the photographs the private investigator took of Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss to that meeting.

When they met Wesley could see that Lachlan was distressed and angry. Wesley tried to stay calm and reduce the aggravation of Lachlan, if possible. Wesley was doing his best to remember the advice he had heard Lachlan give on a number of previous occasions.

Wesley Tunstall: “I still have a copy of the photograph you gave me in January 2015. As far as I know, no one knows I have them at this stage and there is no reason for that situation to change. I am well aware that you want to reveal the affair between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss, but you do not wish to put yourself in a position where you will breach the Court order. I may be able to assist you in that regard.”

“After we met in January 2015 I hired a private investigator to investigate the relationship between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss. It did not take him long for him to provide photographs to me of their relationship. Once I had the photographs, I discharged the services of the private investigator. I kept the photographs to myself and did not tell you of any of this activity or discovery, because I did not want to distress you further.”

“The significance of this is that you now have independent evidence of the relationship between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss and that evidence can be released to the media, seemingly without breaching the court orders.”

Lachlan Tedeschi: “At the very least it seems you have paid attention to what I have said from time to time over the years.”

Wesley Tunstall: “It is also worth considering whether my releasing the material to the media might be a better strategy in the circumstances.”

Lachlan Tedeschi: “That is very well done, Wesley Tunstall.”

The Next Day
The next day multiple media outlets ran with a double story: a report on the Court case which revealed no identities of anyone involved; followed by a revelation of the affair between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss, accompanied by the independent photographs of them taken by the private investigator.

1 This story is loosely based on the case CHS -v- DNH [2015] EWHC 1214 (Ch)

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Destination Unknown

Dinner at the same hotel was how their paths crossed. 42 year old Mirabella Northcote was a senior manager in an energy company visiting Rockhampton, central Queensland to speak at a conference. 48 year old environmental scientist Cassidy Cheltham found himself in Rockhampton to inspect a site to see if it could be restored for residential or commercial development.

Initially they were both dining alone. Mirabella made sure Cassidy was aware of her. She smiled at him several times during the early part of her meal. On her way back from the toilet to her table just after Cassidy had commenced his main course, Mirabella invited to Cassidy to dine with her at her table. Her wedding ring was clearly visible to single Cassidy as she extended her invitation to him. He accepted her invitation and took his meal and drink to her table.

After initial introductions and pleasantries, it did not take Mirabella long to tell Cassidy she was trapped in a bad marriage. She did not say much positive about her husband, Derwent Northcote, the few times she spoke about him. She said she was staying with him because it was best for her two (2) children, Miss 10 and Mr 7.

Mirabella put on a good performance. She managed to talk about enough topics to take the focus off her “troubled” marriage and appear charming to Cassidy. When they finished their dinner they talked for a while and then Mirabella successfully asked Cassidy to go to her hotel room with her.

Inside her hotel room Mirabella removed her clothing, but not her wedding ring. Cassidy participated in the encounter and spent the evening with her. So began their adulterous affair.

When they returned to their respective homes, they kept in touch via telephone calls and text messages, with the occasional e-mail.

Throughout their affair Mirabella kept her story consistent in one regard, she complained her husband Derwent was a serial cheat, who had had many lovers before she commenced her affair with Cassidy. From the start Cassidy urged Mirabella to leave Derwent and he continued to do so for the entirety of their relationship.

Mirabella always said she would stay with Derwent because that was the best for their children. If she left him, she was always worried about him doing something to the children. There was never any complaint of physical violence, but there were regular references to emotional abuse from Derwent to Mirabella.

Mirabella was also consistent with her demands that she did not want her husband, Derwent, to know about her affair with Cassidy. Cassidy complied with her request, even though that made contacting Mirabella a difficult exercise at times. She did not always keep her spare mobile telephone close by.

They saw each other as often as their business schedules would permit and they saw the inside of several hotel rooms together.

For eighteen (18) months things went well between Mirabella and Cassidy, Mirabella was a kind, loving, caring woman. Occasionally during that time she would contact Cassidy and seek comfort from him because of what she said was an unpleasant interaction with her husband. Those exchanges were always the same, Derwent had allegedly said something horrible to Mirabella and whilst she endeavoured to stand up for herself, the outcome was unpleasant and very stressful for her.

Mirabella maintained that their children never saw nor heard any of this dysfunctional relationship. As far as they were concerned, their parents had a reasonably happy household. Cassidy and Mirabella disagreed often on that issue and Mirabella never accepted that Cassidy may be correct.

Many times Cassidy said to Mirabella that he was interested in a full-time relationship with her and that she should make plans to leave Derwent for that purpose. Mirabella always rejected that offer and said she would stay with Derwent because that was the best for their children. If she left him, she was worried about what he might do to their children.

During that time there were also four (4) or five (5) hysterical telephone calls from Mirabella to Cassidy after Mirabella got upset over something Cassidy had allegedly done. There were several more occasions when Mirabella telephoned Cassidy seeking his support and comfort after what she said were arguments she had with her husband Derwent. Cassidy was always available and supportive when Mirabella rang. In stark contrast to the carefully controlled availability Mirabella offered him.

Their relationship changed after about eighteen (18) months, when Cassidy learned through social media that Mirabella had become very interested in two (2) or three (3) other men. Mirabella always denied she was having an affair with any or all of those men when she and Cassidy discussed the matter. But she was clearly starstruck by the attention those men were giving her.

Mirabella made herself even less available to Cassidy and whenever she did ring him, it was clear to him that Mirabella was always available for her new men. This caused great friction between Mirabella and Cassidy. He saw several instances online where Mirabella was flaunting the time she spent with her new men.

Cassidy also noticed another change in Mirabella. Ever since she started associating with her new men, her dishonesty increased significantly. There were several things she said to Cassidy that were demonstrably not true. The friction between Mirabella and Cassidy was growing steadily.

The Separation
After about six (6) months of that friction laden, deteriorating relationship, Mirabella announced to Cassidy that she was separating from her husband. By that stage she contended that separation was the best for her and her children. The friction between Cassidy and Mirabella grew significantly once Mirabella made that revelation.

Cassidy received several more hysterical telephone calls from Mirabella telling him she did not want her husband to learn of their affair. Typically those telephone conversations involved Cassidy telling Mirabella that Derwent would see from her social media activity that she was having affairs with her new men. Mirabella always said she was worried about what harm Derwent might do to their children if he ever found out about her affair with Cassidy.

That contention became less credible every time Cassidy heard it, particularly in light of how Mirabella was flaunting on-line her relationships with her new men.

Once Mirabella had separated from her husband, she told Cassidy she no longer wished to continue her relationship with him. She wanted to concentrate on her divorce and she did not want any relationships with other men to complicate that situation. Cassidy was not happy when he heard that news. It was clear from her social media presence that Mirabella had increased her activity with her new men, both online and in person.

From time to time after ending their relationship Mirabella telephoned Cassidy because she wanted something or wanted to discuss something. She never rang him to comfort him. It was curious behaviour on the part of Mirabella, Cassidy thought, when she could easily consult any of her new men for assistance.

A feature of those conversations for Cassidy was how Mirabella coped with the pressure of being a single parent and the primary carer of her children. It looked to him as though she was not coping well. Another Mirabella behaviour Cassidy thought curious was Mirabella continuing to flaunt her relationships with her new men when she said to him she did not want Derwent to know of their relationship. That was an issue Mirabella refused to discuss whenever she rang Cassidy. Yet it seemed to be the motivation for two (2) or three (3) hysterical conversations Mirabella had with Cassidy after her separation from Derwent.

By that stage Cassidy thought the criticism of her husband was a projection by Mirabella of her own problems.

Mirabella never shared with Cassidy that her children witnessed and were subjected to several episodes of severe mood swings by her, once she has separated from Derwent and she had to care for the children all by herself. Nor did she share with Cassidy that she had seen doctors on several occasions to get assistance to sleep when she had to care for the children all by herself.

The Road Trip
Cassidy had not heard from Mirabella for about two (2) moths when she undertook her four (4) hour road trip to her camping holiday with her children. During that last call Mirabella was completely hysterical about her now estranged husband finding out about her affair with Cassidy and Derwent thinking she was having affairs with other men.

Mirabella told her children they were going on a road trip and a camping holiday. When they asked her where they were going, Mirabella replied, “We will find out when we get there”.

To the outside world Mirabella, the mother driving her children on a four (4) hour road trip holiday, was highly educated with a very good professional job. She portrayed an impressive image of herself to the outside world. Mirabella ensured she was well prepared for the holiday by taking a large supply of her sleeping tablets with her. She told herself she did not want to have problems getting to sleep during the holiday.

Soon after the road trip with her two (2) children commenced it became clear that Mirabella had not planned for the enormous stress to which she would feel exposed with her and her children in such close quarters for a long time. During the drive Mirabella became paranoid about her double life with men other than her husband being discovered. Several food, drink and toilet stops interrupted the troubled thought processes of Mirabella, which was fortunate for the children.

The Camp Site
When they arrived at the camp site Mirabella told her children, “This is where we will be staying for the next week.”

The three (3) of them then unpacked the car and set up the tent. All seemed well for Mirabella and her children. Their first night at the camp site proceeded without incident. As did most of the next day.

Dinner on the second evening saw that situation change. Mirabella became convinced that her double life with other men would be discovered by her now estranged husband and he would take her children away from her. She took a large number of her sleeping tablets and put them in the food she cooked for her children that evening.

Not long after dinner was finished the children went to sleep. They never awoke.

Several hours after putting sleeping tablets in the food she cooked for her children, Mirabella drove away from the camp site and returned to her home.

The next day other campers found the children of Mirabella and Derwent dead in the tent in which they went to sleep the previous evening. Of course Mirabella was nowhere to be seen at the camp site and immediately the campers contacted the police.

Later that day the police located Mirabella and took her into custody.

Derwent was devastated when he heard of the news about his children and Mirabella.

Cassidy was also upset when he heard the news. He said to himself the hysterical telephone calls from Mirabella were some evidence of the delusions she created for herself from time to time.

Subsequently Mirabella was examined by a psychiatrist and was found to be suffering from paranoid delusions at the time of her road trip holiday. Having been found to be of unsound mind at the time of the road trip and the offences, the prosecution against Mirabella was discontinued. Mirabella spent a considerable time in hospital receiving treatment for her mental health problems.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

When Selfish Is The Primary Focus

Daniel Soames answered the telephone. It was his instructing solicitor Toussaint Wilberforce.

“We have a family law case in Sydney in two (2) days, Mr Soames. I thought I would ring you and confirm that all appears to be in order here. How are things with you?”

“All appears to be in order here as well, Mr Wilberforce”, Soames replied.

Wilberforce: “You will recall, Mr Soames, the mother was living with the father in the Central Coast area of New South Wales. They had two (2) children in their relationship. The mother left the marriage and the Central Coast with the two (2) children to live in Wollongong with her then boyfriend. The four (4) of them then moved to Queensland to live. That relationship did not last and the mother subsequently moved to Rockhampton with her current partner and his two (2) children. The children of the marriage are now settled in Rockhampton, attending school and doing well.”

Soames: “Yes, Mr Wilberforce, I recall.”

Wilberforce: “The Independent Children’s Lawyer agrees with the recommendation of the Family Report writer that the children should remain living with the mother in Central Queensland. The Family Report writer concluded that the children had finally achieved a degree of stability in their lives, although it was limited to that point. Accordingly on the available evidence staying in that environment would be the preferred option for the well-being of the children.”

Soames: “That is a handy position in which to be, Mr Wilberforce. But the attitude of the Judge is the most important factor and that remains unknown at this juncture.”

Wilberforce: “Quite so, Mr Soames, and I sense that our welcoming may not be all that warm in the Court in Sydney.”

Soames: “I share your assessment and concern.”

Wilberforce: “I will see you at the airport tomorrow.”

Soames: “Yes, Mr Wilberforce, tomorrow, at the airport.”

The telephone conversation then ended.

The Airport
When Daniel attended the airport he proceeded through airline security as is normally the case. Quite unexpectedly on this occasion he encountered his friend Conchita. She now worked for airline security and after initial salutations, she spent about ten (10) minutes regaling him with stories of people travelling who are seemingly cheating on their partners. Several of them were people she knew in one form or another.

Their respective work demands meant they could not continue their discussion and so it ended. Daniel proceeded through the remainder of airline security and then went off to meet his instructing solicitor and travelling companion, Toussaint Wilberforce.

Soames shared the news of meeting Conchita with Wilberforce

“What a handy resource she may prove to be in the future”, Wilberforce said.

Soames replied, “Not everything is about work, Wilberforce. However I agree him that Conchita may prove to be a useful source of information in the future.”

That discussion filled part of the time whilst they waited until they could board their plane. The rest of the time did not involve any significant discussion of their case, due to the public nature of their location.

On The Plane
Once on the plane Soames and Wilberforce were seated together and next to Wilberforce was a man who was very keen to chat. Once he found out Wilberforce was a solicitor who practiced in family law, his travel companion was very keen to tell his story of a woman he knew who was on a music podcast. According to the travel companion if you listened to that particular music podcast, the woman co-host progressively revealed her divorce and effectively bragged about her affair with her two co-hosts.

During the telling of the story Soames said to Wilberforce, “Work rarely seems to stop for you”.

Wilberforce replied, “The information and knowledge gained can be useful in the future, Soames.”

Soames: “Point taken” and they smiled broadly at each other.

When the travel companion finished his story, there was little other conversation between him, Wilberforce and Soames.

Soames and Wilberforce spent the remainder of the flight discussing minor matters. It was a pleasant and otherwise uneventful flight.

When Soames and Wilberforce landed in Sydney they went straight to their hotel, checked in and proceeded to their respective hotel rooms. Once settled in his room, Soames commenced preparation for the trial the next day.

The Trial - Day 1
At the end of the first day of the trial, Soames reflected upon its progress. All things considered, the evidence proceeded as he thought it would and no one took an unsurprising approach. The Judge was somewhat more angry at his client, the mother, than he had anticipated, but not so much as to need to fundamentally revise their approach to the trial.

Soames and Wilberforce briefly returned to their respective hotel rooms after the day in Court and then met again for dinner that evening. During dinner, Soames and Wilberforce discussed the case and how the trial was progressing.

Soames: “Mr Wilberforce, I have considerable disquiet about the behaviour of the mother. Rewarding it by allowing the children to remain living with her seems an uncomfortable, perhaps even unsavoury, result.  There were many valid criticisms of the father which were canvassed today during the trial and they counted against the children living with him. However I am not sure the new man in the life of the mother is a significant improvement. He seems to be the same type of man as the father we have been criticising, only nicer.”

Wilberforce: “Nicer, for now, Soames. I expect he will become like the father in time to come.”

Soames: “That is hardly a comforting prospect for the children in this mess.”

Wilberforce: “Indeed Soames, but it is the way these cases invariably unfold.”

Soames: “In fact the more I see of him, the more I tend to not like the new male partner of our client. Happily there has been no need for him to give evidence in these proceedings.”

Wilberforce: “He has also failed to ingratiate himself with me and I have spent considerably more time with him than you have done.”

Soames: “Some of the bad behaviour of the mother seems to have been stemmed since meeting this chap. She has remained living in Rockhampton and the children are now settled in Rockhampton, attending school and doing well. Perhaps he has some redeeming features.”

Wilberforce: “If the new man is responsible for that apparent stability, perhaps he does have some redeeming features.”

The dinner continued in an otherwise uneventful fashion and after about an hour both men then retired to their respective hotel rooms.

The Trial - Day 2
With all the evidence having been completed during day one (1) of the trial, all that remained on day two (2) were final submissions.

In addressing Soames during his final submissions on behalf of the mother, the Judge said, “It was common ground int the trial that the mother had facilitated very little contact between the father and children since they left the Central Coast of New South Wales. That was something to which the father referred often when presenting his case and it was something about which I often criticised the mother.”

“There was significant criticism of the mother that she was not child-focussed in her behaviour and had not been child-focussed for some time. That criticism came from the father, the Family Report writer, the Independent Children’s Lawyer and me.”

“That criticism supported a return of the children to live with the father on the NSW Central Coast.  However it was tempered by the fact that the children had finally achieved some stability in their lives and disrupting that stability to return to the Central Coast would be detrimental to the development of the children. That is a matter of some significance for the case of the mother.”

“Again, the father, the Family Report writer, the Independent Children’s Lawyer and I were all very critical of the mother, that she had organised her life to suit herself and not the children. That meant there was a significant element of rewarding the very bad behaviour of the mother in allowing the children to continue living with her in Central Queensland.”

“You can hardly argue with those criticisms, Mr Soames. I believe I have made it abundantly clear during this trial how unhappy I am about the behaviour of you client, the mother, in this case.”

Soames: “No, Your Honour, I do not propose to argue with the criticisms you have raised and you have made your displeasure with the behaviour of the mother abundantly clear. Notwithstanding all the criticisms of the mother and her behaviour, as Your Honour pointed out earlier, the children have finally achieved some stability in their lives and disrupting that stability to return to the Central Coast would be detrimental to their development. Accordingly in our submission, Your Honour would grant the orders sought by the mother and permit the children to continue living in their present circumstances.”

The Judge retired for approximately two (2) hours to consider her decision.

Opportunity Knocks
As they were waiting for the Judge to make her decision in the trial, Soames and Wilberforce decided to go to a café to get something to eat and drink.

On their way to a café across the road from the Court, Wilberforce grabbed Soames by the arm and spoke quietly in his ear,
“Soames, you know how you told me work never ends for me, well something about which I know a little is occurring right in front of us. The woman in a passionate embrace with the man is known to me. She is from Melbourne and that man she is kissing is not her husband. He is a Sydney local and is known to me too.”

Soames could clearly see the wedding ring of the woman involved in the kiss.

By this stage Wiberforce had used his mobile telephone to take two (2) or three (3) photographs of the embracing couple. Wilberforce maintained his concentration on the couple and noticed they were walking into a nearby hotel. He took more photographs of them entering the hotel and he followed them. Soames followed Wilberforce, without saying a word. When the embracing couple got into the hotel elevator together Wilberforce took his last photograph of them.

It appeared to Soames that the couple were oblivious to the presence of Wilberforce.

Soames and Wilberforce then went to a café and during their meal, Wilberforce told Soames the story of the embracing couple.

Wilberforce: “Some months ago I was retained to assist in a divorce and do a little investigation and advice work for the husband of the woman we saw in the embrace. She travelled quite a bit for work and the husband suspected she was having an affair. I was supplied with some information, including photographs of the wife. It turns out a Sydney solicitor I know also knows the Sydney man involved and he was quite happy to tell me about him. I was told the Sydney man was a giant rat, who likes to promote himself and make fun of other people. He has no loyalty whatsoever.”

“This will be unexpected information for my Melbourne solicitor colleague. I propose to provide it to him as a professional courtesy. I expect he will tell me the wife was in Sydney “on business” or ”working”. The circumstances of the working or business I have seen and photographed may be different to that told to the husband by the wife.”

Soames: “That is very decent of you, Wilberforce. And very alert as well. Experience tells me those are the moments one does not want to miss when it comes to evidence collation.”

Wilberforce: “I thought it warranted an immediate response. I am grateful for your cooperation.”

Soames: “No trouble, Mr Wilberforce. It has added a little more excitement and diversity to our day and our Sydney visit.”

Wilberforce the rang his Melbourne solicitor colleague and told him what had just occurred. The Melbourne solicitor said he made significant notes of the conversation. Wilberforce said he would write to him about it and send the photographs to him when Wilberforce returned to Brisbane.

At the end of the telephone call Soames and Wilberforce discussed the passionate embrace couple a little more and then turned their attention back to their trial.

About twenty-five (25) minutes later the associate to the Judge rang them to tell them she was returning to deliver her judgment. Soames and Wilberforce immediately returned to the Court.

The Decision
Upon her return the Judge gave her decision immediately.

  • “I find that the behaviour of the mother since separation and to date in removal of the children, the manner in which she changed their residence and her failure to assist the children in the maintenance of their relationship with their father was inappropriate and reflects poorly on her understanding of parental responsibility.”
  • “There is little evidence to date of a willingness on the part of the mother to facilitate a continuing relationship between the father and the children.”
  • “There is considerable evidence of the inability of the mother to focus on the needs of the children, preferring instead to focus on her needs.”
  • “The attitude of the mother to the responsibilities of parenthood is very unsatisfactory.”
  • “There have been repeated relocations and her choice of previous partners permitted to live with the children reveal irresponsible parenting.’
  • “An inability to focus on the needs of the children until very recently is apparent.”
  • “Notwithstanding these significant criticisms, the children are settled in their current environment and their relationship with their mother.”
  • “It would now not be in the best interests of the children to require them to relocate to the Central Coast of New South Wales.”
  • “I am not comfortable making orders that seem to reward the behaviour of the mother which has been bad in so many respects, but these orders represent the best interests of the children after proper consideration of all the evidence.”

Court ended quickly after the decision was given. Everyone packed up their material and left the Court room promptly. Soames and Wilberforce went to an interview room nearby and had a short conference with the client and her new partner. They were still holding hands at every opportunity, to the significant annoyance of Soames.

After a brief explanation of the judgment to the client and her new partner, which they both seemed to understand, they announced they had to leave to catch the flight home they had booked. They then thanked both Soames and Wilberforce and left for the airport.

Soames and Wilberforce once again attended the café where they ate during the Judge considering her decision. On this occasion it was an entirely uneventful visit.

From there they caught a taxi to the airport for an uneventful flight home.