A senior judge has told Conservative Party donor Sir Andrew Cook and his estranged wife Baroness Angelika Hirsch-Stronstorff that their forthcoming hearing to discuss the division of their assets will be heard in public because family courts should not be ‘secret places’.CRIME: Successful crackdown on knife crime to be expanded with fresh police teams to target street criminalsMr Justice Holman said he did not want to expose engineering firm boss Sir Andrew and his interior designer estranged wife to unwelcome publicity but he said he strongly believes that members of the public have a right to know what goes on in family courts.POLICE: Teenagers hunted over Wetherspoons pub raid in SheffieldThe judge is due to oversee a trial of rival claims put forward by Sir Andrew and Baroness Hirsch-Stronstorff in the Family Division of the High Court in London in June.NAMED: Criminals locked up in Sheffield so far this yearHe outlined his thinking to Sir Andrew, Baroness Hirsch-Stronstorff and their lawyers at the latest pre-trial hearing."It is my view that this case should be heard in public and that is what will happen," said Mr Justice Holman."It is not that I wish to expose the Cooks to unwelcome publicity."It is because I very, very strongly believe that the family courts should not be secret places and that the public is entitled to come in, or to hear through the press, and know what goes on in these courts and why judges, who sit in the name of the Queen but on behalf of the people, decide what they decide and the process by which they decide it."The judge said that open court principle had been adopted in the Court of Protection, where judges consider issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions, and he thought it should apply to ‘family work’.Sir Andrew, chairman of William Cook - a firm based in Sheffield which produces components for the rail, energy and defence industries - andhis estranged wife are embroiled in a dispute over the fairness of a pre-marital agreement following the breakdown of their three-year marriage.Mr Justice Holman has heard that Baroness Hirsch-Stronstorff signed the agreement four days before she married.She claims she was ‘bounced’ into the agreement.Sir Andrew says her allegations are not true and argues that the agreement should stand.
His business traces its roots back to 1840 and is one of the oldest family controlled-businesses in Sheffield.