First Day in Court

First Day in Court

Updated 10 July 2018

The Advocate

I was in between Law examinations. I had finished the first set, and was waiting for the course for the second set to begin. I was gaining experience in a solicitor’s office. I was in my first week.

An easy case

The boss told me he had an easy case for my first time in court.

Our client had issued divorce proceedings against her husband, complaining of adultery with an unnamed woman. The husband was willing to be divorced, but not on adultery. He was willing to agree to be divorced, but on grounds of unreasonable behaviour. The application was to amend the divorce petition on the court file by deleting the adultery allegation and putting in unreasonable behaviour details. The husband’s solicitor had written to the court to consent. All I had to do was appear and apply.

The Judge

I appeared before a really nice judge named Christian Dilcock. The name has stuck in my mind because of what was to follow.

There was just him and me. I introduced myself, and I explained what the application was about.

He smiled and he nodded gently.

Windeatt

“Isn’t this a Windeatt case?”

I had never heard of the Windeatt case, and I suspect this showed on my face.

“You do know the Windeatt case don’t you?”

“I would be grateful if you would refresh my memory.”

I was and still am proud of my presence of mind in that situation.

He explained what a Windeatt case was, and I was able to explain why my case was different. The husband and his girlfriend both wanted the amendment.

Mr Dilcock gave me my order and I went away not triumphant but just enormously relieved that I had not actually lost the case.

So what is a Windeatt case?

The Windeatt case was going in in the 1950s, and got to the Court of Appeal at least twice.

Mrs Windeatt had accused her husband of adultery with an unnamed woman. The reason for using “unnamed” was that if you named the person you had to make them a party to the case which increased expenses and increased the complications.

Mr Windeatt was not prepared to admit adultery, but was prepared to admit “inappropriate behaviour” as part of being divorced for unreasonable behaviour.

The spanner in the works came from the unnamed woman, who asked to become a party to the case.

She said she was identifiable from the divorce petition. She said she had not had sex or inappropriate behaviour with Mr Windeatt and she wanted a hearing to clear her name.

The first judge to hear her application said she was not a party to the case and therefore could not take part.

She appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal said that if she had been identifiable from the divorce petition then she could demand to be made a party to the case. However on reading the divorce petition there was nothing in it to identify her. She won on the principle, but lost on the particulars.

A fightening way for me to gain knowledge.