PROVING THINGS 187: THE CAMERA MAY LIE: THE IMPORTANCE OF DATES ON PHOTOGRAPHS

Today we are journeying into the Family Court to look at the judgment of Mrs Justice Judd in K v G [2020] EWHC 3209 (Fam).  It shows the importance of obtaining metadata in relation to documents. In this case the respondent had contended that certain photographs were taken on a certain date and that they supported his case.  In fact, on appeal, it was clear that the photos were taken on a different date and undermined rather than supported the respondent’s case.

THE CASE

During the course of a fact finding hearing a Recorder found that the mother had assaulted the father.  The mother appealed against that finding.

 

THE FINDINGS OF THE RECORDER: BASED ON PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE

The Recorder had based her decision, in part, on photographs provided by the father which, he said, were taken after the assault.  The date of the assault was, initially, said to be the 9th November. The father later stated that the assault must have taken place on the 10th November as he had taken the children swimming that day and it must have been the weekend.

“In her judgment the Recorder preferred the father’s account to that of the mother. She said in particular that his account was supported by a photograph of his injuries. She said she made this finding notwithstanding the question over the date. The photograph in the bundle had no date on it and the father’s original account had contained a simple mistake.”

THE APPEAL: THE DATE OF THE PHOTOS

The mother’s appeal was allowed. The father had, by the appeal stage, provided details of the date of the photos which showed, clearly, that they were taken before the date of the alleged assault.

  1. This appeal is brought principally on the short point about the date. It is very rare for an issue in a case to turn on a point like this, as memories are often unreliable and it is quite easy for one date to be confused with another.
  2. The photographs now provided with the proper date stamps now clearly demonstrate that the father took the photos on Friday 9th November and on the morning of Saturday 10th November, before he said the assault happened.
  3. The father gave a lot of evidence as to the context of the assault and the events leading up to it which simply do not fit with when he took the photographs. In his oral evidence he disputed the mother’s account that he had assaulted her on the Friday evening and specifically said that nothing had happened then. Both in his written evidence and his oral evidence he said a great deal about what he said had led up to the assault by the mother, including that the argument had gone on for most of the day. She had picked an argument with him in the morning, taken the children swimming, and resumed where she had left off when she brought them back. He then said he left the home almost immediately because of the assault. He certainly did leave on the 10th as the hotel records show his stay commencing then.
  4. Given the level of detail he gave surrounding the event which placed it on a non-working day following which he immediately left the home, I am satisfied that the independent dating of the photos would have undermined the father’s reliability and credibility about the whole incident, and would have been something the Recorder would have been bound to take into account in coming to her decision to make the finding she did. The issue so far as the mother’s injuries, or lack of them, also depended upon that very issue.
  5. In all the circumstances, I will set this finding of the Recorder aside. I understand orders have been made in the Children Act proceedings. The children are living with their mother and there is a contact order in favour of the father. I therefore think it would not be desirable or proportionate for this matter to be remitted for a rehearing and so the matter will rest as it is.