For now too many years I have been ploughing what seemed like a very lonely furrow, trying to make people understand just what a dangerous and unhealthy influence John Hemming has had – and continues to have – on the nature of public debate and understanding about the child protection system. And consequently the damage he has done to a great many vulnerable people.
The weekend of May 15th 2016 however saw a welcome change. John Hemming managed to be so consistently and persistently wrong about something quite important that a large number of lawyers noticed and commented. John Hemming asserted that lawyers were on ‘effective retainers’ if they had ever acted for local authorities and that their Code of Conduct prevented this as a conflict of interest. It was explained at great length why this wasn’t so; see this post from Nearly Legal. For an entertaining summary of the weekend see this post from Hoaxtead Research.
Pink Tape blogger Lucy Reed also took the time to carefully explain why it did NOT mean a barrister was corrupt or ineffective if they from time to time accepted instructions from a local authority – on the contrary, this allowed the barrister to be more effective at making and running a case.
But as ever, Hemming wasn’t about to let some inconvenient facts get in the way of further promotion of his central agenda; that the family justice system is evil and those who work in it are corrupt. Despite contacting the Bar Standards Board and being told his interpretation of the rules was incorrect, he would not be daunted and was last spotted threatening to campaign for a change in the Bar’s Code of Conduct.
— Nearly Legal (@nearlylegal) May 16, 2016
The consequences of any change to the rules which means barristers could not act for parents if they had ever acted for any local authority (or presumably they could not ever defend any criminal if they had once prosecuted another) would mean we would run out of available barristers very quickly. Maybe that is what he wants?
So why worry? A finger in every corrupt pie and consequent exploitation of the vulnerable
What was interesting however was the response from some. It was pointed out that it is ‘futile’ to engage with such as Hemming and that by pointing out this futility I was somehow encouraging him.
so what DO we do? Just ignore him? Laugh at him? that hasn't really been working has it? On and on and on he goes. https://t.co/cMMorAl7t2
— Sarah Phillimore (@SVPhillimore) May 16, 2016
I wonder whether some more senior members of the legal profession just don’t understand:
- the full nature and extent of his activities and
- just what a game changer the internet has been to allow him to promote his agenda that family lawyers are inherently corrupt.
Whereas only 20 years ago conspiracy theorists were restricted to their lonely bedsits now they have access to professional tools that enable them to produce slick websites that can be seen all over the world. Anyone tempted to smile indulgently at the japery of John Hemming or think me a little odd and obsessive to keep on banging on about it, needs to understand that in every single nasty campaign against the family courts for at least the last 10 years, Hemming has been involved – either directly or by providing support to those who were.
I remain utterly baffled that his activities in supporting those such as Sabine McNeil and Ian Josephs appear to garner very little attention or censure. If you don’t know about the Hampstead Satanic Abuse Hoax, then I suggest you read this and consider the impact not only on the children in the case but the wider community, who have found themselves subject to many months of harassment and accusations from the world wide community of conspirators, alleging that they ate babies or wore their skin as shoes.
When MEPs came to London in November 2015 on a ‘fact finding’ mission to determine if the UK’s family justice system was really as abusive and corrupt as was claimed in a number of petitions (organised by Sabine McNeill) they spoke to some responsible people, such as the Co Chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children and the Family Rights Group. BUT they also took time to discuss issues with John Hemming and his lackey Julie Haines, one of the named ‘McKenzie Friends’ on his Justice For Families website – and what they charge or what he pays them, he won’t be clear about.
Ms Haines has told me that she brings hopeless appeals to the Court of Appeal in the full knowledge that they are hopeless but as a mechanism to show the higher courts just how unhappy people are with the system. Which is all very well and good, but as a campaigning tool to spread awareness it is not merely hugely expensive and a drain on the public purse, it is diverting the attention of our judiciary away from cases where appeals might actually have some merit, and must be at enormous emotional cost to a parent who is presumably unaware that their case is simply being used as an example of a corrupt system. Presumably that parent had some hopes when JFF took on their case; hopes which will soon be dashed.
John Hemming has directly contributed to and supports the continued debasement of our public discussion about matters of huge important to us all – how do we protect children? How do we support families? Certainly since the death of Peter Connelley we have been pushed into ever more extreme positions; from Hemming’s promotion of parents’ rights to the exclusion of any consideration of the child at one extreme, to the Government’s continued push for more adoptions more quickly at the other.
To an extent I suppose we have got what we deserved. As a society we seem uncomfortable with nuance in our debate, are unwilling to accept responsibility and to learn from mistakes, preferring instead the culture of ‘blame and shame’ – for every child beaten to death by his parents, we want another social worker’s head on a plate.
But this really, really matters. John Hemming is encouraging parents to distrust and fear lawyers and thus encouraging them to deprive themselves of our help when they really need it. And his reach isn’t just to the vulnerable and desperate parents – it’s extending now to children.
I have seen his video. Poor, poor sod. I really can't engage with this any more. It is awful. Please stop. https://t.co/2OtCimgxVc
— Sarah Phillimore (@SVPhillimore) May 16, 2016
I will leave you with the conclusion of Nearly Legal. I agree. And I think you should too. I am really worried about John Hemming.
Why is this important? Why pay attention to the ramblings of a former MP whose credibility has been demolished by the Courts? Because a lot of desperate and unhappy people do pay attention to him. His advice, including recommending to parents fleeing abroad to frustrate care proceedings, has been acted upon by people. If Mr Hemming now suggests trying to challenge lawyers on the erroneous basis of conflict of interest, or worse, that people should consider a prospective lawyer to be tainted with conflict of interest if they have ever acted for the other side, he is damaging people’s interests, stupidly and unnecessarily.
EDIT December 2018
Hoaxstead Research are covering the trial of Sabine McNeil for the breach of her restraining order which attempted to stop her continued harassment of the parents in the Hampstead case. Read here Sabine’s own account of the support and encouragement given to her by Hemming in her battle against the secret family courts.