SM v. CM [2017] CSIH 1 (Court of Session Inner House, 5 January 2017)

Background: SM had been found in contempt of court for refusing to facilitate contact between CM and their child, in proceedings that had combined the question of contact and the question of contempt. A sentence of three months’ imprisonment was handed down.

Held: The court granted the appeal and overturned the finding of contempt and the sentence. It found that the combination of proceedings had delayed resolution of the issue of contact and was “clearly inappropriate and prone to cause confusion and injustice.” In addition, it found that the imposition of the maximum sentence of imprisonment was both inappropriate, because of the more than one and a half year delay from the finding of contempt, and excessive for five instances of failure to facilitate contact. The Inner House added a postscript to the judgment, emphasising the importance of expedition in dealing with cases involving children.

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