Hearsay Evidence

Unless uncontroversial, it must be regarded with great caution

It is a frequent complaint that care proceedings are unfair because the court relies largely or entirely on hearsay evidence. ‘Hearsay’ in law is evidence provided by someone about something said by someone else and it usually is not admissible evidence in court proceedings for the simple reason that it cannot be tested in cross examination – the person who actually said the thing that is relied upon is not in court. For example, a report from a foster carer or a teacher about what a child said is hearsay.

Under section 2 of the Civil Evidence Act 1995 and Part 33 of the Civil Procedure Rules if a person wishes to rely on hearsay he must give advance notice to the other parties and explain why.

So why are proceedings involving children treated differently? Historically wardship proceedings in the High Court were an exception to the general rule that hearsay evidence would not be admitted. This is because in such cases the paramount consideration was the welfare of the children who were made wards of court, not the rights of the parties.

See Re W (Minors) (Wardship: Evidence) [1990] 1 FLR 203. The court said:

… wardship hearings are not subject to the strict rules of evidence and a judge exercising the wardship jurisdiction may admit evidence classed as hearsay which would otherwise be excluded.

The statutory justification for the use of hearsay evidence in care proceedings is found at section 96 of the Children Act 1989 which refers to evidence given by or in respect of a child. The Children (Admissibility of Hearsay Evidence) Order 1993, SI 1993/621, simply provides that such evidence shall be admissible “notwithstanding any rule of law relating to hearsay”.

Growing awareness of the impact on vulnerable witnesses of giving evidence has also impacted on the criminal courts – the Criminal Justice Act 2003 now allows for hearsay evidence to be given in criminal trials in a much wider set of circumstances than used to be the case.

Tension between admissibility of hearsay and rights to a fair trial

There is clearly a tension between the demands for a fair trial process pursuant to Article 6 of the ECHR and the need to protect children. The Supreme Court in W [children] 2010 UKSC 12 commented:

The object of the proceedings is to achieve a fair trial in the determination of the rights of all the people involved. Children are harmed if they are taken away from their families for no good reason. Children are harmed if they are left in abusive families. This means that the court must admit all the evidence which bears upon the relevant questions: whether the threshold criteria justifying state intervention have been proved; if they have, what action if any will be in the best interests of the child? The court cannot ignore relevant evidence just because other evidence might have been better. It will have to do the best it can on what it has.

Courts must consider hearsay evidence very carefully

But it cannot be a ‘free for all’. The court is entitled to the best evidence that can reasonably be put before it. The judge will have to consider hearsay evidence very carefully, particularly if it is relied upon to prove a particularly serious allegation, such as sexual abuse. The court in re W in 1990 commented:

In wardship, therefore, the rules as to the reception of statements made by children to others, whether doctors, police officers, social workers, welfare officers, foster-mothers, teachers or others, may be relaxed and the information may be received by the judge. He has a duty to look at it and consider what weight, if any, he should give to it. The weight which he places upon the information is a matter for the exercise of his discretion. He may totally disregard it. He may wish to rely upon some or all of it. Unless uncontroversial it must be regarded with great caution.

In considering the extent to which, if at all, a judge would rely on the statements of a child made to others, the age of the child, the context in which the statement was made, the surrounding circumstances, previous behaviour of the child, opportunities for the child to have knowledge from other sources, any knowledge, as in this case, of a child’s predisposition to tell untruths or to fantasise, are among the relevant considerations.

The most recent case to warn of the need to treat hearsay with caution is found in the judgment of the President in Re A (A Child) [2015] EWFC11, where he commented at paragraph 9:

…the local authority, if its case is challenged on some factual point, must adduce proper evidence to establish what it seeks to prove. Much material to be found in local authority case records or social work chronologies is hearsay, often second- or third-hand hearsay. Hearsay evidence is, of course, admissible in family proceedings. But, and as the present case so vividly demonstrates, a local authority which is unwilling or unable to produce the witnesses who can speak of such matters first-hand, may find itself in great, or indeed insuperable, difficulties if a parent not merely puts the matter in issue but goes into the witness-box to deny it. As I remarked in my second View from the President’s Chambers, [2013] Fam Law 680:

“Of course the court can act on the basis of evidence that is hearsay. But direct evidence from those who can speak to what they have themselves seen and heard is more compelling and less open to cross-examination. Too often far too much time is taken up by cross-examination directed to little more than demonstrating that no-one giving evidence in court is able to speak of their own knowledge, and that all are dependent on the assumed accuracy of what is recorded, sometimes at third or fourth hand, in the local authority’s files.”

It is a common feature of care cases that a local authority asserts that a parent does not admit, recognise or acknowledge something or does not recognise or acknowledge the local authority’s concern about something. If the ‘thing’ is put in issue, the local authority must both prove the ‘thing’ and establish that it has the significance attributed to it by the local authority.

Civil Evidence Act 1995

Section 4 sets out what considerations may have an impact on the weight of hearsay evidence

  • whether it would have been reasonable and practicable for the party by whom the evidence was adduced to have produced the maker of the original statement as a witness;
  • whether the original statement was made contemporaneously with the occurrence or existence of the matters stated;
  • whether the evidence involves multiple hearsay;
  • whether any person involved had any motive to conceal or misrepresent matters;
  • whether the original statement was an edited account, or was made in collaboration with another or for a particular purpose;
  • whether the circumstances in which the evidence is adduced as hearsay are such as to suggest an attempt to prevent proper evaluation of its weight.

101 thoughts on “Hearsay Evidence

  1. ian josephs

    One can understand hearsay evidence from children being considered for the reasons explained above. It is however outrageous that this is extended to evidence from social workers,so called experts,doctors and other adults who cannot be questioned but nevertheless their untested evidence is more often than not preferred to the testimony of parents in person in court.

    Reply
  2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

    Please provide evidence for your assertion that ‘untested evidence is more often than not preferred to the testimony of parents’ because that is emphatically NOT my experience.

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  3. C

    I am sorry to say, the allowance of hearsay from experts over the testimony of the parents is certainly my experiencee – and I am about to preesent a case to the RCJ on that very basis. You I know are sssssssssssslightly aware of the case, and were of the opinion that the hearsay overwhelmed the evidence to the contrary. I hope you are proved wrong; I fear you may not be, but justice is nowhere to be seen if that is the case.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore

      Hopefully there will be a reported judgment and then we can all make our own assessments.
      Hearsay evidence is not automatically irrelevant or unhelpful. Direct evidence is to be preferred but that does not make hearsay evidence worthless. As ever, it all depends on the facts of the particular case in front of us.

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  4. Kath Davis

    If evidence in Care Proceedings is not based on actual’fact’ then it is only hearsay, hearsay is not a ‘reliable’ or factual concrete source of information, far too many cases are processed with wrongful outcomes for the child as a result. Fact.

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  5. angelo granda

    Great reliance appears to be placed upon entries in ‘social work files’.
    Much in them is largely hearsay yet they are looked upon as an oracle.SW’s and Guardian’s are permitted to go through them and ‘cherry-pick’ entries to support their cases.Yet parents are not given access neither is the court.
    A question: To what extent is hearsay evidence given credence in other civil cases e.g. financial disputes,libel cases, parking and other relatively petty cases?
    In a financial case,I would imagine accounts will have to be revealed in full to the court.A party could not withhold ledgers entries hostile to his own case.
    My opinion,as an ordinary parent,is that a line should be drawn .In serious cases where removal of children is proposed ,forensic certitude is called for. If hearsay evidence is admitted then , in serious cases, they should be heard before a jury not a judge who ‘prefers’ professional evidence to that of parents.Cases should be heard without time restrictions too!
    On the other hand, I can see how less serious issues might be heard informally with more reliance on hearsay and that they can be decided summarily.
    Does this make sense to readers?

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  6. Sarah Phillimore Post author

    Yet parents are not given access neither is the court.

    Absolute, complete, dangerous nonsense.
    Absolute rubbish. Of course I and my clients get to see the case against them. Its called the trial bundle. The Judge makes decisions only on what is contained in the trial bundle.

    The assertion that parents don’t get to see the case against them is probably one of the most dangerous pieces of misinformation peddled about the family court system and I am disappointed to see it repeated here.

    I would be grateful if you refrain from repeating this – otherwise I will simply delete any further comments from you as I will have no choice but to think that you have no interest in reasoned debate but that you instead wish to scaremonger.

    But I would be interested in why you believe this to be so. Who told you? Does it come from your own personal experience? It simply isn’t true so I am intrigued as to why so many people say it is. I suspect its origins, as with so much that is destructive about the debate, are with Ian Josephs who has always claimed that parents and even the judge do not get to see the LA evidence.

    Absolute, complete rubbish.

    Reply
    1. angelo granda

      But I did not write that parents are not granted access to the trial bundle. Nor did I assert that parents do not see the case made against them.
      You have misunderstood what I wrote; perhaps you are busy and in a hurry this morning.

      I wrote quite correctly that parents do not have( full and unfettered) access to CS social work files and archives. Is that fair when the SW’s, LA solicitors, Guardian and Guardian’s solicitors do have full access and quote from them at will?They are able to ‘cherry pick’ entries (true or false ) in support of their cases but parents and their solicitors are not.
      I also made the point that despite many of the entries being based on hearsay,the Court appears to treat social work files as an oracle.Parents cannot respond fairly without seeing them,surely not?

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        I am sorry if I am in a rush and not reading things properly. But I don’t think that is the problem.

        If SW and Guardians rely on information in other reports, parents are entitled to see that information and to challenge it. It must therefore go into the trial bundle.

        If parents do not engage with their lawyers and do not trust them, then yes, I accept they are at a huge disadvantage because they may not be able to read through all the documents and identify what is missing and when disclosure is needed.

        But to suggest – as I think you are doing – that evidence is deliberately and wilfully withheld is simply wrong. This is the UK, not Russia or North Korea.

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  7. angelo granda

    I will say that I have never ever visited a website or read any blog by Mr.Josephs although I have seen some of his views on the CPR.
    I respect his right to an opinion alongside the others.
    I have visited Mr.Hemming’s website (JFF) many times but do not read his personal ‘blogs).
    Actually,I do not believe in blogs or read them anywhere. I prefer to comment on issues raised on the CPR.

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    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      If you want to play a genuine part in this debate, then I am afraid – as far as I am concerned – you do have to acquaint yourself with Mr Joseph’s 10 Golden Rules and decide whether or not you think this is a) sensible advice or b) dangerous and very unhelpful.

      I tend to find this is a very useful shortcut for me when deciding whether or not I am going to engage with people or whether I must, sadly, add them to my spreadsheet of conspiraloons.

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      1. angelo granda

        Sarah, Please let me explain again.The CS have two or three computer databases on which they store notes,information and detailed professional reports on a parent and their children. Parents and their solicitors are not permitted access to these computer records in order to support their case in court. They are not allowed to cross the threshold of the computer room. Both other parties are!

        In their assessments and reports to court, they will often refer to the records saying ” it is recorded in social care records that—” or ” it was noted that—-“. You must have noticed this yourself. For example,they might refer to a referral or a particular concern in a report to court but fail to report that it was examined fully at the time and found to be baseless.
        They pick and choose at will.
        This is not conspiracy theory or anything else; it is true.Next time you get the chance ,why not demand that your client be allowed access to the complete child-protection records of their family?I doubt they will agree but then I may be wrong.

        I am not going to break my GOLDEN RULE not to visit Mr.Josephs website for you or anyone else.I like to keep an open mind and I have not commented as to his advice to parents or the right or wrong of him assisting expectant mothers to emigrate.I do feel free,however,to comment on his posts to this forum.I am not interested in his golden rules or your opinion of him.I take his remarks on here at face-value as I do everyone elses.I will not enter into extremist arguments or respond to any madcap theorists and reserve my judgment on whether or not Mr. Josephs is one such.
        Please accept my opinions for what they are.Independent ones of an ordinary parent!

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          If they are relying on anything that I wish to contest, they must produce the primary evidence. They simply cannot rely upon ‘reports’ that they do not evidence.

          they might refer to a referral or a particular concern in a report to court but fail to report that it was examined fully at the time and found to be baseless. this has happened to me in a number of cases. But because I have the records in front of me i have been able to track the original referral and see how it later became misrecorded. Not out of deliberate malice but carelessness. Both are equally destructive to a parent, I accept. That’s why the State pays me to ensure that proceedings are fair.

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          1. Sam

            In my case certainly matters were overlooked I am not saying lawyers are legal aid losers, rather that problems arise from such things as continuity. I had one legal executive ,four solicitors and a barrister 6 months into proceedings.
            I don’t know if this is normal or very bad luck.

  8. Angelo Granda

    Further to a discussion on the resource at the weekend started by an anonymous reader on the subject of hearsay in Family Courts , i want to make the point that ,especially in S47 cases, often MOST ( appx 90% by my estimate) of the evidence is hearsay evidence. As Sarah correctly wrote in the above post , hearsay evidence is given on the reports of others not seen and vouched for by the actual witness . This will include most of the assessments made ,for example, by Guardians and other court experts who make them largely on the strength of SW reports and databases.
    As Sarah also wrote, hearsay evidence is not generally admissible in law! Before i go on ,I would much appreciate her legal answer to these 3 questions.

    1. What are the specific reasons why it is not generally admissible in law?
    2. Why is it admissible in the Family Law Courts?
    3. Are there any other Divisions ( areas of law ) where it is admissible?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Hearsay evidence can be admitted in any court at the discretion of the Judge. It is usually admitted in family cases because of the importance of keeping children safe. However that does not mean that the court treats it with the same gravity as it does primary evidence and it is utter nonsense to say 90% of section 47 investigations proceed on hearsay alone.

      If you want me to engage with that statistic please confirm how and what basis you reach that percentage.

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  9. Angelo Granda

    I never wrote that 90% of section 47 investigations proceed on hearsay alone!

    I wrote something completely different .By my estimate which is based on personal experience and on the sight of court bundle of another case, most of the evidence is hearsay evidence.There is very little real evidence; most of it is made on the reports of others.
    I appreciate it may be admissible at a judge’s discretion in any court ,thank you, but please ,Sarah, why is hearsay not generally admissible ?
    Thanks also for your reply to question 2.
    I learn all the time from this resource and ,as I asked that question i anticipated the reply would be because it is thought to be in the best interests of children. Keeping children safe is another over-used cliche but i agree it is very important that we do so.
    I have said approximately 90% of the evidence by my estimate is hearsay and i don’t think that is too high. I am including professional opinion based on the reports of others also evidence ( sometimes wrongly taken as true as a matter of course) from Public records and documents.

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    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Hearsay is not generally admissible because it isn’t as good as primary evidence. It cannot be tested or challenged in the same way as the maker of the statement is not in court. It is second or third hand evidence. So it is not as good as primary evidence but that doesn’t make it worthless and sometimes it can help the court. All must be cautious around it.

      i am sorry if I misinterpreted what you wrote but I still don’t understand why or how you can say ‘90%’ of anything with confidence. How is that calculated? On what basis?

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  10. Angelo Granda

    I have done my own estimate based on my own experience and one other person’s . I don’t expect everyone to agree with it; i don’t agree with many official estimates and statistics either! What would be your estimate?

    Readers,i am not a lawyer ,Sarah is a trained , experienced barrister which is why i asked her the questions first. As always we are not far apart.

    Hearsay is not generally admissible in law because it cannot be tested or challenged IN THE SAME WAY as the maker of the statement ,writer of the report,opinion,fears etc. is not in court. It is not made under oath thus has far less value than statements which are made on oath.

    However, IT CAN BE TESTED. The specific reason why it is not generally admissible is because hearsay evidence has to be ‘heard out’ and tested in very great detail in order to ensure a fair hearing when serious decisions are to be taken by a court as to sanctions,sentencing and so on. The main reason it isn’t admitted is because of the time considerations . For all the hearsay evidence to be tested adequately, it would take much too long. This is why they prefer only to ‘prove’ matters of fact on real evidence and statements made under oath.Hearsay evidence is not fact .

    As you rightly say Sarah, hearsay evidence is widely acceptable in the civil law system. When admitted it has to be tested in great detail. There are lots and lots of reasons why hearsay can be wrong including biased cherry-picking,false documents,forged signatures, misreading, biased reading,incompetency of Public officials, lack of integrity of the reporting person, forgery of signatures , misunderstanding of statements and words uttered often long before, some statements may have been said or written under co-ercion or when in a state of overwork,stress etc. There are countless reasons why hearsay evidence is not to be relied on and why it carries less weight. It is almost impossible to cut through all the lies,half-truths, allegations and biased opinion as pointed out by one of the Family court judges.
    I guess this is why cases such as libel,fraud etc. can sometimes take months and months to be examined fairly. Particularly in an era when the use of juries has diminished and a judge officiates ,great care needs to be taken.Especially when the facts are contested, they have to be checked out and vouched for and it will take a long time in court and out obtaining original documents,archives and tracing original witnesses etc. to give evidence under oath if they are still alive.Entries can easily be inputted to computer databases unsigned,reports can be altered, police intelligence can be unconfirmed etc.etc.ad infinitum. The SW who used to comment on this resource told us her ‘evidence base’ is the LA database.

    Where am i going? Well, surely you will agree ,Sarah that if hearsay evidence is admitted to Family Law cases particularly the serious public law ones then it cannot be a fair hearing in accordance with article 6 when the judicial system is broken and severe restrictions put upon the time available .Hearsay evidence does not fit with summary justice. There are so few judges and courts available , the representation available to respondents is iffy and there appears to be a 26 week time limit before the case starts.

    Is such a process (or lack of it) compatible with our ECHR convention rights?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      My estimate – based on over 20 years and many hundreds of cases – is that the vast majority of cases in which I am involved, proceed on the basis of proper evidence which is fairly tested in court. I have had experience of probably around 20 cases where I felt serious concern about the standard of evidence and investigation; and I challenged those cases.

      The real problems – in my mind – are the lack of consistent and coherent support networks available to parents, the inability of social workers to develop trusting relationships with parents and the degree of minimisation and denial that many parents adopt. All these issues interplay with one another.

      Reply
  11. Angelo Granda

    Yes, but does that mean you count as proper evidence the hearsay on the database? They admit themselves that the reports and unconfirmed intelligence entered into it by others who are not called to court forms the base of their case.
    Do you regard a written referral as ‘proper’ or as hearsay? If the respondent denies its truth,is the referrer always called to give evidence on oath?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      A referral should then be investigated – so the investigation is primary evidence and the person who has investigated can be questioned at court. Referrals aren’t simply put before a court with nothing more. Referrals trigger a section 47 investigation which may then trigger care proceedings.

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  12. Angelo Granda

    If a referral triggers a s47 investigation and the Police are assigned to it, i propose that care proceedings should not be commenced until the investigation has been carried out. Otherwise, the referral is hearsay.In many cases, you can take it from me,Sarah, the Police Officer responsible is not questioned in the Family Court . Many times the investigations into hearsay allegations aren’t even revealed in Court ( especially when findings go against the LA concerned) and it is claimed that investigations are incomplete. The Court doesn’t have the time to hear out hearsay evidence as i have discussed above, thus,as i said, hearings are unfair.
    I must say, though, that we and other commentators have discussed all this before. The credibility of all evidence should be well-investigated before any action is decided upon but particularly before fact-findings either out-of-court or in! I have seen a letter from the director of social services to an MP stipulating that procedure as a vital one and i have quoted extracts on this resource.

    The problems begin when the LA lawyers sidestep the guidelines and procedures at the earliest stages and the Court covers it up.I believe you have agreed before that the Family Court hasn’t the time to wait for the results of investigations; they take too long.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      the Police should have returned the children upon Mum sleeping it off. They should have anticipated the sobering-up process would have not taken long and returned the children home forthwith and i would expect it took less than 24 hours. Thus,again correct procedures were flouted.

      someone who is drunk in charge of little children, to the extent that the police have to be called is not safe to be trusted with children. The sobering up process?!? so the police just drop the children back and come and pick them up again next time mum goes on a bender? What rubbish. This is dangerously bad parenting, I am not surprised the children were removed and they should not be returned unless and until the drunk parent gets help to deal with their dangerous and damaging addiction, which is incompatible with safe parenting.

      Reply
  13. Angelo Granda

    I do understand your fears but it I don’t agree there is any excuse to overreact and remove children from home without any real evidence except in investigated hearsay.
    If it is rubbish then you should campaign to get the law changed because it is the statute not I that quite clearly stipulates that:-
    a) children not to be removed without an order from a court.
    b) Police protection to be kept under review and to be for no longer than 72 hours
    c) The SW’s to be open and honest; must follow correct procedure and go to court with facts not abuse S20’s.

    The safeguards are there to protect children from harm in care .Professionals cannot act on irrational fears such as yours that hearsay reports of drunkenness is dangerous and damaging addiction.You need evidence first,I’m afraid.

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  14. Mike

    Hello I have read with interesting conversations between both parties. I am involved in a case where all of the evidence is hearsay and the judge has even commented on the fact. What I fear is that the LA relies on nothing but hearsay and the case has ran on for over six months. The LA are never put to proof on the facts the rely on. It is as though once an allegation is made it is believed!
    I noticed one of the contributors mentioned that we were in the UK but if I told you my children were removed simply because an unfounded allegation and NO evidence you might well think the authorities were based in a third world country. No I live in Grimsby. Being a man means you are guilty

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      What did your lawyer do? Did you even have a lawyer? If you did not accept allegations against you, those allegations should have been challenged in the court proceedings. And if they were care proceedings, you should have got non means and non merits tested legal aid to pay for lawyer.

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      1. Michael

        Yes I am represented by a legal team. However in the child care proceedings the main facts of the case are not challenged until deep into final month. The LA threshold document first presented to the court contained 10 points. Since then the threshold has now been reduce to 4 points all of which are non factual just hearsay. I believe the LA put before the court at the first hearing an exaggerated threshold to gain an interim care order. They claimed such dangerous facts as “ the father has weapons in the house, he kills animals, he continuously rapes his wife he never takes the children to the GP,. Those four points have now disappeared from the original threshold document but no reason has been given to there absence? These are Egregious statements and if true deserve the granting of an order. But like Houdini they have gone missing. The LA have had four different case workers on these proceedings and in six months I have not been assessed in anyway by any professional but each time I go to court the Judge comes down on the side of caution and agrees with the children’s guardian, Social worker, and the Psychologist that I am not allowed contact with my children. There is a fear from the judge that if he does not accept the words of the professionals then he is in line to take the blame should things go wrong. The judges know what violence is they see and Adjudicate on such matters.How can a psychological assessment be one sided. So interview the mother but not the father which has happened in my case. My main concern though is the facts are never challenged until the later stages. In my case this is running into nearly 10 months of procedure. I am not being biased because the case involves me I am just stating the facts.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          You are expected to challenge the LA in the first few weeks with your response to their threshold and evidence. I appreciate that oral evidence is not usually heard until much later but if you have a challenge to make, you make it early via your own written documents.

          there is nothing necessarily sinister about things disappearing from the threshold – the court encourages a composite document that hopefully all can agree so this often means some of the more ‘lurid’ allegations are dropped.

          The allegations you mention are extremely serious and I would have expected them to remain and be the subject of a finding of fact.

          But its impossible to sensibly comment on someone else’s case when all I have is your comment.

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      2. Michael Reed

        Yes I am represented by a legal team. However in the child care proceedings the main facts of the case are not challenged until deep into final month. The LA threshold document first presented to the court contained 10 points. Since then the threshold has now been reduce to 4 points all of which are non factual just hearsay. I believe the LA put before the court at the first hearing an exaggerated threshold to gain an interim care order. They claimed such dangerous facts as “ the father has weapons in the house, he kills animals, he continuously rapes his wife he never takes the children to the GP,. Those four points have now disappeared from the original threshold document but no reason has been given to there absence? These are Egregious statements and if true deserve the granting of an order. But like Houdini they have gone missing. The LA have had four different case workers on these proceedings and in six months I have not been assessed in anyway by any professional but each time I go to court the Judge comes down on the side of caution and agrees with the children’s guardian, Social worker, and the Psychologist that I am not allowed contact with my children. There is a fear from the judge that if he does not accept the words of the professionals then he is in line to take the blame should things go wrong. The judges know what violence is they see and Adjudicate on such matters.How can a psychological assessment be one sided. So interview the mother but not the father which has happened in my case. My main concern though is the facts are never challenged until the later stages. In my case this is running into nearly 10 months of procedure. I am not being biased because the case involves me I am just stating the facts.

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  15. Michael Reed

    Going back to your comment about what did my lawyer do. Well the LA served the papers on me about the first court case while I was in police custody. Then when I was released I had no time to have legal representation at that first hearing when the order was granted as the LA scheduled the hearing at a city 90 miles from my home so I could not attend. Secondly when I tried to gain representation from family solicitors and going to several meetings I found 95 percent of the solicitors in family law were women. They had a Predisposition Innately installed in their Psyche that the victim being a female was innocent and the male being a guilty Perpetrator. This hurdle was in fact one of the greatest obstacles I had to over come having my own team believe me.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The LA has no responsibility over court listings. That is for the court to decide. As many of the smaller local courts are now shut, many people have to travel quite considerable distance I am afraid. It is not helpful at all but it’s not a deliberate plot to get at you.

      I have my own criticisms of the feminisation of the FJS but I don’t agree that female lawyers have a predisposition to believe a woman. I am female, and I don’t. But I agree it is a problem for men who often are the only man – apart from the Judge – in court.

      Reply
  16. Michael Reed

    To address the point of Angelo Granda.
    I was subject to a police investigation. They interviewed my wife and children and after three months decided to take no further action. This investigation took three months and the LA hid behind the police investigation as not to tell me anything. Then I learnt from my solicitor that the LA do not need a standard of proof as in criminal cases as the word of an accuser is all they need to proceed. No facts No evidence and No Proof.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Again – I am not trying to diminish your sense of anger and injustice which I am sure is real to you. But you have to understand that if there is a live police investigation the LA HAVE to step back. They are not ‘hiding’ – but they can’t do anything to pervert the course of that investigation. It does make things very, very difficult. The police and CJS often move much more slowiy than the FJS and we need to get on with care proceedings quickly. It can cause very big problems for all and is a definite weakness in the system – but again, not a deliberate ploy to do you harm.

      Reply
  17. Angelo Granda

    QUOTE:They claimed such dangerous facts as “ the father has weapons in the house, he kills animals, he continuously rapes his wife he never takes the children to the GP : UNQUOTE

    If they claimed this then i assume it was reported to Police and investigated fully.
    These are criminal allegations .Their credibility has to be examined . fully before civil Family Court proceedings are contemplated.This is only my view and I am only an ordinary parent not a lawyer but I think when criminal allegations are made about a citizen, he has civil rights and one of those is a right to a full criminal investigation carried out by a competent authority and that will,of course,be the Police. It is wrong when the criminal process is bypassed and criminal allegations are taken before an inferior ,civil court.
    So this is a matter of human rights. Once the civil rights of citizens are withdrawn, then human rights are contravened.
    Often,the professionals will prejudge issues and assume a citizen is guilty but ‘not beyond reasonable doubt’. It is persecution ,to me, when certain classes of people are picked on and denied their civil rights.

    Michael,you mention egregious statements .I wonder how these are worded.
    Are the words ‘it seems’ – ‘apparently’ – ‘it is recorded in files’ – ‘police reports’ – ‘intelligence reports’ – ‘ concerns’ – used in the statements?

    Reply
  18. Angelo Granda

    One key to reversing the failure of the Child-protection system is to establish the credibility of referrals and allegations BEFORE Family Court proceedings are instigated. The importance of that is actually set down in a letter from a Director of Social Services to an M.P. , a copy of which I once saw. Until the allegations have been found credible ( worthy of belief) the accused has to be considered innocent as per normal conventions. To take allegations to an inferior court disguised as ‘concerns ‘ and/or ‘facts’ to satisfy neglect or child-abuse concerns is wrong.
    There are dreadful and persistent real-life consequences to such reckless untruth.

    In an inferior Family Court, respondents face a case to which there is no appropriate response…………the truth isn’t what it’s about.
    Parents are not facing direct charges which they are able to disprove. The case against them is LIQUID. Express disagreements and they are castigated for not accepting the case against them; threshold are crossed because a ‘future ‘risk’ exists that they might not co-operate and work with the Authorities. Accept the case against them and they find the threshold crossed as a result too!

    Before respondents know what is happening, the L.A. have already gathered together like a pool of rainwater their various concerns and clichés. Then ,when respondent solicitors begin to input mitigating evidence even written evidence which directly devalues certain ‘concerns’ and other L.A. evidence , they scatter like mist but they remain ; they aren’t removed from the overall matrix even when they take them out of the threshold documents. Most of a L.A. case is hearsay reports, intelligence, recorded data etc. They are fluid, like water.

    However, parents will find that at the final hearing, it matters little what evidence their barristers put forward and it does not matter if they absolutely disprove the major allegations, they can’t escape. By then, the peripheral ‘concerns’ and ‘hearsay’ have set like a block of ice in the minds of the professionals. This is the ‘watery’ way in which these so-called Courts work!

    Lawyers must accept that Article 6 and 8 conventions are contravened. These ‘COURTS’ must be stopped from issuing such draconian orders .

    Reply
  19. Michael

    Thank you both for commenting on my posts. Sarah Phillimore and Angelo Granda.
    I note that Sarah sympathies lay mostly with the LA in most cases. As to challenging the threshold earlier in the process this could not be done because of the police action. This investigation took three months. Remember the police action was undertaken on the bequest of the LA. Therefore they ( LA ) knew how the process would inhibit them revealing details as they supplied the details to the police. So the police searched my home no weapons, they spoke to my children no evidence and spoke to my wife about the rape. She told them it was not true. So after three months No Further Action NFA by the police. By this time how do I challenge the threshold. Notice how Sarah did not address the points of how NO Professionals interviewed me No Social Worker,No ISW and no Psychologist. No risk assessment No parenting assessment but still a report produced that the court relies on. Now tell me how a report that is as one sided as that document could be produced in court. They ( LA ) in their latest Threshold claim Physical harm in four of the five points.They have put no proof to back up this claim.In the five points of the threshold they ( LA ) claim emotional harm how do they prove that. Anybody can claim emotional harm as it is not a precise science and is subjective. The fact that the court hears or reads all of these threshold statements means once read is to be believed. Headlines are read and taken in as being true. I know the points I raise are based solely on my view. There would be no point me disclosing the details for your comments if they were not true. I have supplied 6 names of relatives who would be willing to look after my kids. The LA have contacted just two of the names by phone and no follow up calls to these two and no calls or contact with the other four. That is in six weeks
    After meeting with my barrister for the third time he called me Mark when my name is Mike so you tell me does anyone care. Why when there is no proof, no primary evidence, and no corroborating facts this is happening. Now my hearing takes place this March and consists on nothing but hearsay. Where in the world would a man have his children removed from his love and care on hearsay evidence alone. Are yes I remember now it’s the UK.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      My ‘sympathies’ lie only with the rule of law and due process. It is not ‘sympathy’ that leads me to describe the impact of a live police investigation. It is a reality.

      You say this Notice how Sarah did not address the points of how NO Professionals interviewed me No Social Worker,No ISW and no Psychologist. No risk assessment No parenting assessment but still a report produced that the court relies on. Now tell me how a report that is as one sided as that document could be produced in court.

      To which I respond – what on earth was your lawyer doing? Why was this not challenged if you didn’t agree with it? Of course a one sided document should not be relied upon in court without giving the other side the opportunity to challenge it. Why didn’t you? What was stopping you?

      Reply
    2. Angelo Granda

      Michael Reed,
      I have tried my level best to explain your problem.These things are not easy to understand if you have no training in Social Work or in the law.
      I am like you just an ordinary parent; many parents are subjected, just like you to an unfair judicial process where false information does not have to be substantiated.
      I doubt it, but were you put in contact with an independent advocate such as the FRG at the outset of the social work investigations?
      The Children Act contains Working Together frameworks and if you were not informed of your right , the whole process broke down at the outset. An advocate might have explained how the process works and how the Family Court works long ago and saved you much puzzlement and consternation.
      It is only by coming on the CPR and by reading the various posts that I managed to work it all out.
      It might help if I itemise:-
      1. The Family Court is not a ‘court’ at all or at least not in the way most of us are accustomed to. It is more like a professional ‘tribunal’ of sorts. The Court is a closed one; there is no jury; there are set time limits; there is a limit on the evidence respondents can access; the lawyers know a level of bias exists but it is acceptable; there is an imbalance due to legal-funding issues; there is no automatic right to appeal.
      2.The aim of the Family Court is not to discover the truth or to provide justice . The leading lawyers have made this plain. They recognise that it is not possible for them to do so; they don’t have the time or the protocol to examine and unravel the various ,diverse allegations, truths, half-truths and falsehoods as an ordinary court does. The practicalities call for summary judgments.
      3. For that reason, the cases do not rely on facts as we are used to. Concerns, allegations and hearsay can be put forward and ,as I say above, whether they are true or not counts for little.
      4.The Judges pass judgment at their own discretion on their reading of all the evidence presented to them. It is not meant to be a judgment as to ‘guilt’ or ‘innocence’ of anyone but one made in ‘the best interests’ of the child/children involved. TRUTH AND JUSTICE is in many respects irrelevant.
      5. Respondents waste their time arguing about the evidence; they could prove all of it wrong but they cannot ever prove that the child/children are not at risk of significant harm. All children are at risk and all harm is significant.
      6. The Court grants comity to the L.A’s which means it listens to them and grants them the mandate to make decisions. So does the GAL.
      7. BOTH men and women are deemed to be at fault I.e. they have failed just by being in Court. The fact that the case is in Court at all means the parties have failed in some way. Thus the child/children is at risk of emotional harm. Whether allegations are wrong or not, the fact they are made at all arouses ‘concerns’ and that is all that is needed. Prove them wrong but it does not matter; that the L.A. thought they MIGHT be true is enough to satisfy threshold for an order.
      8. The L.A. should have waited for the Police Investigation and criminal case to conclude before instigating proceedings, then offered the family support including mediation and arbitration or perhaps marriage guidance.

      I hope this clarifies things for you. If I was you I would accept the findings Court and set your mind to bridge-building possibly by letter or by calling a Family Conference. Forget about going down the Family Court route.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        I have re-read your post and you don’t seem to have any argument with your partner thus marriage guidance is unnecessary , sorry!
        Was there an anonymous referral making the false allegations about you, Michael?

        Reply
  20. Michael

    Hello again Sarah.
    Firstly the psychologist report was requested by the LA but only after the police investigation found no evidence. So let’s deal with the most outrageous allegation of rape put into the initial threshold document. Surely the judge at the first interim order should have said “ wait a minute this is surely a criminal matter”
    No he did not but remember the document passed to the police was by the LA who had written it. So let’s follow the path of this allegation. The police then interview my wife and me. Then they find that there is not enough evidence to charge so drop the investigation. Then the LA remove this particular statement from the threshold, why because there is no evidence yet when they first put it into the threshold document they needed NO proof ! Being a judge and reading that sort of allegation you will surely grant the interim care order.
    As I see it no court proceedings happened while the police investigation was on going. Hence three month delay. Then the LA take the lead by asking for a Psychological assessment of my wife and children. This takes another two months. So when I ask for contact with my kids it is not granted because the report by the psychologist report takes Priority. Then when we go back to court the LA then say my wife refused to complete the assessment by the Psychologist. The judge then grants the LA and Psychologist another 4 weeks to for fill the report. So seven months elapse. The La drive the scheduling of events. Then the LA ask for phone records to be examined. I show them my phone in court so they can see any communication between the parties involved. This is not enough for the LA so they want the phone examined by a company called CYfor. Which takes another three weeks. All the time they argue I should not have any visitation not even Supervised contact with my children. Once again the judge agrees. The court allows the LA to dictate the agenda. If the La ask for more time the judge grants it. I have noticed that when proceedings start the judge always addresses the LA barrister first. Remember in all this the LA have not proven a single point and I have not seen my children in seven months. I am not angry or mad as I now realise that being a man ( black ) justice in child care proceedings is wholly unequal. As you know Sarah the system has a formulated time table and since the start I have told my legal team the allegations are not true. Their response is to say at the final hearing we can challenge the LA but until then the evidence is not challenged. Statements are sent between the parties and I feel as if you do not accept some parts of the LA case then they say “you are in denial“ . Also an attitude of compromise is also encouraged but when you have not done the things alleged should you then accept the false allegations. Because the LA do not need to substantiate any claims until late in the proceedings they can say what ever they want as no proof is needed. As I said before my wife’s solicitor told her even if there is no evidence it does not matter because your ( wife’s) word is enough. Take that into any other situation in law. If someone said you had committed a crime then you were guilty because of that someone’s word.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am still confused. Did you challenge the LA position at the final hearing or not?
      the Judge addresses the LA barrister first because they are the applicant and the applicant goes first. Again, this is not sinister. This is just the order of play.
      Also I assume the LA didn’t ‘make up’ the allegation of rape – your ex partner did.

      I don’t wish to make light of what you are feeling. You clearly do not feel you have got justice or anything approaching a fair hearing and that alone shows that the system is not working. Either you have been a victim of a serious miscarriage of justice and your lawyers are remarkably incompetent – or your lawyers haven’t been able to explain what is going on in a way that makes sense to you.

      I do not think that racism is the issue here. A large proportion of my clients – black. white, male, female – allege the system is biased against them. It is not. However, I accept that it is not a system that seems to be working well.

      Reply
  21. Angelo Granda

    As the final hearing isn’t until March, Michael, I do hope you have not used your real name on here.
    Be warned, it is very risky.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Yes, that is a good point. You can’t put anything into the public domain that risks identifying the children without the permission of the court. You are allowed to talk about the fact that care proceedings are on going but you can’t give any details of what was said or done in the court room. Safest thing is to publish under a fake name I think. If you want me to delete or edit any comment let me know.

      Reply
  22. Michael

    Thank you once again for the reply.
    No the final hearing has not taken place as my ex partner has disappeared.
    Yes my ex partner made up the allegations as she made no statement to the police. She withdrew those allegations. So in fact she lied. She also lied to the Psychologist and the social workers because she believed that if she did not maintain her story the authorities would remove the children from her care. She complied with the LA simply to retain the children in her care. She now has also lost the children because she was found to be using drugs around the children. Now the children are in foster care and she is nowhere. No one knows where she is as she has not attended any hearings or been in contact with any professional organisations. I have insisted that the allegations were false but until now have not been believed. The judge did comment that the allegations made by LA are based on hearsay. I only hope my kids are returned to me. I myself want to believe people will wake up and smell the coffee.
    I am sceptical about the racial element. I live in a predominantly white area ( redacted ) and have never seen a black lawyer or barrister in court. When I attend court I am the only black Person in the system. I don’t want to make my colour an excuse for the problems facing. As previously mentioned can the LA simply remove my kids on hearsay ? The LA have now been given a further three weeks to come up with a new threshold document but this time they do not have my ex partners agreement to include in their text.
    Where do you think this case is going. The above is a true representation of the facts but with names and addresses left out.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to reply Michael.

      You may well be right that race plays a part, even if its just because you are visibly ‘different’ to the others in the court room. I hope I have never treated anyone differently because of their colour or their religion – but I have to be aware of the fact that I might, and my bias might not be known to me.

      But I hope you can agree that the problem here goes way beyond a LA trying to stitch you up. Public bodies like this are in a VERY difficult situation. they have to protect children, they have a statutory duty to do so. When people make false allegations as your ex did, they have to be taken seriously and investigated. Given the slow pace at which the system moves, I accept that this often does significant harm to those adults who deny the allegations and want to present evidence that they are false. The LA and the court have to err on the side of caution in order to protect children. And of course, sometimes they end up doing more harm by keeping them away from a parent who was in reality loving and protective. ButI don’t see that they have any other choice. If they ignored serious allegations against you which turned out to be true and the children got hurt – their heads on a plate.

      So yes – children can be removed on ‘hearsay’ but that ‘hearsay’ would have to be really significant and serious.

      It is a good sign that the LA have to rejig their threshold. Normally it is very clear from the outset what the problems are. A revised threshold suggests that the case is more complicated than they initially thought.

      My advice to you, to anyone in this situation, is to grit your teeth, keep your cool and help your lawyers as best you can to make your case. You will be able to challenge allegations against you. If all they have is hearsay, make sure your case is stronger and better.

      Reply
  23. Mike

    Sarah thank you once again. I accept the children’s care is the priority and I do realise that the LA have to protect the children from any harm. Being in the middle and being able to see both sides of the dispute you want the proceedings to end and the evidence to be tested.
    I read your Profile on the internet and perhaps if I knew I was I going to be dragged into a quagmire of legal debate I would have sought your advice earlier. I have now have GF [edited to remove name] barrister to represent me at the final hearing so hopefully her experience will bring the matter to a successful conclusion.
    I appreciate the time you have devoted to your replies and the unbiased advice. “ An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere “ ( Dr Martin Luther King )

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Good luck Mike – let us know how you get on. Hopefully with good legal representation, the situation will improve for you and your children.

      Reply
  24. mike

    Hello Sarah was my last post deleted ?
    Let me thank you for your advice. My case does not go back to court until March. Hopefully the LA position might have changed in the meantime. I am always fighting and I know there is light at the end of the darkness. I will cooperate with the LA and hopefully this cooperation will lead to a positive outcome.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I haven’t deleted any of your posts but I have hopefully removed your surname and the area you gave which in my view means that there is very little risk of your children being identified.

      Reply
  25. Angelo Granda

    The only further comment I will make is that the Local Authority solicitor has already failed in that he did not wait for investigations in accordance with the clear rules issued by the Department of Social Services ( which I referred to above).
    He preferred to issue and lodge with court UNDER OATH a dishonest threshold document which did not contain facts just allegations no doubt disguised as facts. As a result the ICO was issued under false pretences. In my layman’s view, even now your lawyer should appeal to the high court to have the ICO rescinded and the children returned home immediately to rescue them from traumatic harm, brainwashing, alienation, child exploitation in care etc. if it is not too late already; the harm only takes days to traumatise them.
    When lawyers give false evidence under oath and get caught out, they then have to account for it thus they then tend to do or say anything to prove themselves and it is for that simple reason, I would give very little credence at all to the drug allegations about Mum or anything else. They may even start saying she is a drunk or anything derogatory.
    I note she claims she made no allegations but they are suggesting she made them and has now withdrawn them. I doubt if that is true.
    It is not an impartial process but we can see how alleged bias against males can soon switch to the women. Michael,look through all statements and documents and see if you can find one single piece of ‘evidence’ in your favour or hers. If not,this proves they are not open,honest and impartial. Even though the initial allegations have been removed from the threshold,this does not mean they will now go on and report openly they made a mistake and issued a fraudulent document or acknowledge the allegations were unwarranted. They just react with silence and it is swept under the carpet.
    I suspect a third party involved here who made a false referral in the first place for which reason,i suggest you report your ex as a missing person to the Police.
    Good Luck.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry Angelo but this is not good advice at all. There is utterly no point now in challenging the initial ICO if there is a final hearing in March. The LA cannot ignore an allegation of rape – they are not being ‘dishonest’ or ‘lying’ in presenting that allegation to the court. Its an extremely serious allegation that has to be investigated and yes, if it is false, then the consequence is that a blameless father has suffered and his children have been prevented from a having a proper relationship with him.

      but none of this, I am afraid, means the LA are to be criticised for raising such allegations. You would I am sure be very keen to criticise them if they simply ignored allegations about dangerous adult behaviours and left children unprotected. The system is far from perfect but it helps no one to see demons where they simply don’t exist.

      Reply
  26. Angelo Granda

    I would say the SW’s were absolutely correct to report the serious allegations to the Police Child Protection Squad with whom they work closely .I note the Police took appropriate action to protect the children involved pending the completion of their inquiries; they have the duty to protect children and the Public in general. However, I agree with the Directorate of Social Services that the Local Authority should not go to the Family Court ( or instigate their own child-protection proceedings) until and when allegations are proven credible. I think they should wait! There are dreadful and persistent consequences for children and families when L.A. city solicitors recklessly state false allegations in official documents under oath. They are assumed by the Court to be true and this will be why the ICO was issued needlessly.
    I know you prefer that no chances are taken and that children are safer in L.A. care but I’m afraid that is a myth; they are in critical danger and suffer traumatisation.
    I do agree with you that it is too late now to appeal to the high court about the ICO because there is a time -limit .So I would not advise that now. The solicitors should have done it within a few days.
    My worry now is that the poor, unfortunate children might have to remain in care . The peripheral, liquid concerns will have built up by the final hearing and a full-order granted.
    Of course, a full order may well be needed but ,as usual, I insist family separation isn’t proportionate.
    I would advise Michael to work with his barrister and co-operate with the L.A. and the Court just as you do and wish him ‘Good Luck’.
    It’s the children I am worried about.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      If they wait, children will be seriously hurt or die. That is the risk. I appreciate that state care of children has many failings but it is unlikely that a child’s back will be broken and his face covered in chocolate to hide bruises in foster care. Its about balancing risks. You see the LA as simply the enemy, state care of children as invariably and inevitably abusive and harmful – so you balance the risk differently. But you are very out of step with how the courts will see it. If parents want to fight and keep their families together, they have to understand this perspective and work with it, not against it. Because the latter is a waste of their time and energy and will almost always lead to the outcome they fear – the destruction of their family.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        I repeat this question:-

        QUOTE: Is the judiciary commanded by the Local Authorities never to comment on and to disregard the long culture of child abuse and exploitation within state care?: UNQUOTE.

        I never cease to wonder when, despite the ever-increasing mass of negative news about care-system professionals and their motives following on from long years of independent investigation and research; the publication of official findings ; discussions in the Lords; Crown Court convictions etc.etc. why it is that lawyers refuse to consider that the guilty professionals may be acting overall with ulterior motives and/or malice? Why do they fail to include the findings of fact when examining the welfare check-list as they should do? Risks should be balanced realistically.

        Why is it that expert barristers with so many years of accumulated knowledge appear to ignore these issues, whilst at the same time criticizing parents who wish to highlight those issues in defence of their own children?

        The failings of the care-system and the abuse of power have been analysed in so much depth as I have written above. Sarah,with the utmost respect as always, you say you appreciate that state care of children has many failings but then ,in the very next sentence ,you appear to deny the undeniable which is that state-care has been found to be abusive and extremely harmful. You then go on to criticize parents who want to work against the powerful abusers and keep their families together.You think they should co-operate with them , understand their motives for acting illicitly and work with it not against it ( in the adversarial process).If they don’t accept the system failings, it will lead to their families being destroyed.
        Surely, there must be a different way!

        I suggest what is needed is fresh-thinking and analysis starting at the top.The way in which the Courts see it is contradictory to the reality .

        What is your 20 years knowledge and experience worth if you discount the reality and negatives in relation to the system and resist changes? That parents are confused by what they see is unsurprising. The years of research and official findings mentioned above have failed to penetrate your thinking .

        Readers- sadly, those with long experience often become complacent and set in their ways, stuck- in – mud, inveigled within long established practices or however we want to describe it.

        I know it is difficult but humility is needed .Acceptance of past mistakes. Many experienced folk, having made wrong decisions in the past, are naturally reluctant to change their mindsets and ways. Even when they receive negative information, they are likely to continue with the flawed practices. They have committed themselves to certain ways and courses of action and are reluctant to admit they may have made serious mistakes,even when the evidence is piled up on the desk in front of them!
        It may be over-confidence or it may be sheer stubbornness but it is illogical to deny the truth preferring to trust that past views have been correct.

        Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Sarah,having read the judgment i can only ask ‘do professionals have any idea of proportionality’?. It appears that Local Authority care has been little short of a disaster for the child concerned (A) . Disaster .

            The first step should have been to punish the two parents in accordance with their crimes IF reports were true and they were drug-users. That would have been proportionate to the circumstances.
            As regards children out-of-control of their parents ,at one time ,they would be sent to what used to be called an approved school which is a kind of boarding school run by staff with great experience in schooling and disciplining ( controlling) juvenile delinquents. Children who committed criminal offences e.g. violence towards parents or other children would be sentenced to a term in borstal. No way would any out of control child be expelled from school and condemned to foster-care or the cruelty of the residential care system as they are today.
            It traumatises them. Boarding schools can be traumatic too, i suppose but it is for a fixed term and never will any child be deliberately alienated from his or her natural parents who are the main constant in their lives as is their home .
            They would be allowed contact and they might even get to spend holidays at home ( in the case of approved schools).
            As I say, there must be better ways.
            The current care system is often ruinous for families. It destroys them!
            Expelling children from school and housing them in profit-making residential ( fake) therapeutic placements is atrocious. Children like A need proper schooling and they need discipline.
            If the Education Department won’t set up approved schools anew then professionals should campaign for their return. They wouldn’t cost £3500 a week per child either.

  27. Angelo Granda

    Well, I admit to balancing the risks differently to you; children are seriously hurt and die when Local Authorities treat cases disproportionately, fail to investigate honestly and subvert due process as laid down by its own executives.
    Here’s a question for you, is the judiciary commanded by the Local Authorities never to comment on and to disregard the long culture of child abuse and exploitation within state care?
    We know how the real Courts have balanced the risk in this particular case , Michael has been cleared and released in proportion to the risk.
    We are also quite in step with how the Family ‘Court’ (?) will see it by now, the Judge’s discretion will be interpreted narrowly as not giving ANY POWER to the court to go into the merits of the case and to substitute its own judgment for that of the Local Authority. It cannot usurp the ‘discretion’ of the L.A.
    The system should not be ‘destroying ‘ families. The risk issues must be put into perspective and dealt with proportionately as in a real court but that’s only my view.
    Genuine Courts will not liquidate families because of human rights so it is wrong for Family Courts to do so.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Judges frequently are very seriously critical of LA and social workers – read any of Keehan’s judgments last year about misuse of section 20 for eg.

      Reply
  28. Mike

    Hello again. Having read your posts I feel that I have to believe my children are safe with the foster family. If I did not take that view my sleepless nights would become more lengthy. I keep the hope that the Judge who is highly qualified in care proceedings will see that the only evidence is the hearsay. The LA can not prove the statements in the Threshold document and as I previously said they have until January 10th to amend that document. Not being a lawyer but having read many articles on the subject of hearsay evidence I am still not clear what options the judge has. My overwhelming feeling is I hope beyond hope he releases the children back to my care.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      I emphasise this is not meant as professional advice just comment from another parent with similar experiences to yours.
      I don’t want you to go to Court under any illusions that’s all.
      The fact that they have now withdrawn irrelevant ,untrue material from documents will not matter. It doesn’t matter how much you prove wrong, it will be whitewashed over.
      It is too late because once the ICO is issued, they have already got the case into the Family Court and they have ‘possession’ of the children.
      The task of the court is to see whether or not there exists and remains in documents some material ( of any kind no matter how small any risk involved and no matter how late it is added) for the issue of a full-order .
      As I said before, it is impossible to prove there is no risk of ‘significant’ harm. The fact you have split with your ex. is enough.
      Whether the court system is fair or not will be for you to find out.
      Let’s hope it is in your case. In the meantime, I advise you to cooperate with your lawyers as advised by Sarah. Particularly you should remember if you ask for your children back, they will not settle it . So you must not object at the IRH, just present your evidence unemotionally. Don’t forget, your barrister should stress your innocence of any criminal charges and also he or she should inform the court of the names and addresses of extended family members willing to care for the children.
      Good luck again and keep in touch with us on the CPR.

      Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Well. the purpose of them was for the parties to reach an agreement and not have to go through a final hearing. They are supposed to to a real attempt by everyone to agree. What actually happens is that they are pretty much a waste of time – most cases do NOT settle as parents fight to get their children back. So the IRH ends up more of an administrative hearing, checking all the evidence is in, witnesses are ready etc etc etc.

      Reply
  29. Michael

    Hello Sarah could you recommend a barrister for me because my two choices to represent me are not available for the dates of 5th March and 9th April 2020. The hearing is at Hull. Obviously someone who has great experience in family proceedings. . I will then ask my legal team to contact them.
    Regards Mike

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry Mike, I don’t know anyone in that region – I can ask on Twitter if you like?

      Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am a barrister but unfortunately in the South west – you do need someone local as travelling long distances makes it much more difficult.

      Reply
  30. Mike

    Thank you for the information I have requested my legal team to contact her. Would it be possible for you to give me a guide to where you think my case will go if I supply you with a quick Resume of the facts. Obviously I would not rely the facts on this forum but maybe to your private email address if possible. I understand that no professional wants to try to second guess the out come of court proceedings as most lawyers and barristers are conservative by nature. I would not hold you any opinion you offer as I know it’s just a guideline as to your thoughts.
    Please only agree if you have the time as I realise you must be very busy. Let me take this opportunity to thank you again for all your advice and if Joanne Jenkins is not a available I will refer back to you..

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Mike – it would be very dangerous and unhelpful of me to attempt to give particular ‘advice’ or make any kind of predications unless I was properly instructed and had access to ALL the relevant paperwork. I think it’s really important that you get a lawyer that you feel you can trust and that they have access to all the information. So I don’t think it will help you if I offer to make comment unless I have all the papers, and even if I did, I don’t think it would help you to have another lawyer chiming in with what your legal team are doing. I hope that you can instruct a barrister that you feel happy with and have these conversations with that person.

      But as a general rule, the one thing I think is the most destructive of people’s wishes to be reunited with their children is that they refuse to admit there are any problems and therefore they refuse to discuss them and see what could be done to make things better. I understand it is very frightening to admit that you have got things wrong in the past and I also understand that this may then be used against you by other professionals. But its lack of insight and recognition that is the killer in so many cases. You need to carefully assess what concerns you can accept and what needs to be challenged. Its a difficult job and that’s why you need the help of a good legal team.

      Reply
      1. Mike

        Yes I do understand. I am not the perfect parent but who is. I acknowledge my frailties in respect of my past conduct and am willing to learn and seek advice to make me a better person. I do have faith in my solicitor and now Mrs Jenkins is on board I hope for a successful outcome. I will post another comment after I have seen the revised threshold on Friday.

        Reply
  31. Mike

    Hello again an update. The La was expected to produce a revised Threshold document by 4pm on the 10th January 2020. Also the case Social Work was expected to sign a statement of truth by 4pm on the 10th January 2020. These were orders directed by the judge sitting at the last hearing on the 16th December 2019.
    Yes you guessed it. The La did not abide by the ruling and failed to produce a revised Threshold document and the case Social Worker failed to produce a signed witnesses statement.
    As before the LA treat the court and judge with utter contempt.
    What should my legal team now be doing. The time the LA need to provide the factual evidence they are going to rely on they have not done. No facts presented No facts to be challenged!

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It is the duty of every party in care proceedings to keep an eye on the timetable and inform the court if dates are not met. If the LA are going to produce the documents within a few days, probably not worth making a fuss, but if the delay is longer than that or you just don’t know what is going on then your solicitors should be contacting the court and asking for an urgent hearing so the Judge can find out why orders have not been complied with.

      Reply
  32. Mike

    Also the police did produce the video interviews of my children however there was no audio of the interviews just transcripts made by the officers. So do the police record interviews on a separate audio machine? Let me elaborate. So they the police presented the dvd and audio tape to the La however when I received the written transcripts of the interviews they totalled 7 pages for one child, 5 pages for the second child and only 4 pages for the third child. Now my legal team tells me that there are over 35 pages of written transcripts. Do the maths please. This means the police or LA have 19 pages of transcripts not presented to me or my team on the first disclosure of the interviews. Therefore I presume they cherry picked the answers they ( LA ) needed as only negative comments can be found in the written transcripts made by the police. So can they LA and police only use the transcripts to paint the picture they want the court to see ? I believe in law a term exists called “ Parity” which basically means you have to show all the evidence not just the parts which suit the Applicant. why does the dvd recordings not have sound ? Seems strange to me. Could it have been that if the children that was being recorded without sound could have been prompted their answers. I say this because one of my children has a speech impediment and the first six questions she answers with one or two word replies. Then when she is asked “ tell me about daddy “ she then goes on to answer with a 64 word reply. This is also strange to me. I must stress I have not heard or seen the dvd or tapes but just read the written transcripts. I know my daughter would have never replied with such a detailed answer. Also this is fact the first interview of my first child concluded at 11:44 am this is this police signing this time off. Then the second interview according to the police log started at 11:41 . So how could the police be interviewing two children at the same time. No doubt the police will say it was an Administrating Error. I have found six of this kind of error in the police logs but my team seem to think it is a point not worth contesting. Strange again.
    Has anyone come across a dvd interview without sound ?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      What I usually come across are Achieving Best Evidence interviews – should be no more than an hour with young children – which are filmed with sound. A transcript can be typed up of what is said. However, the police also have handwritten summaries and typed up summaries of what was said, which is shorter. Sometimes the type written summary can be confused for the transcript of the entire ABE interview. the court will want to watch the actual ABE interview and have a transcript to read alongside it so any concerns about what was said and in response to what questions, should be cleared up by watching that.

      Reply
  33. Angelo Granda

    Mike,
    Knowing L.A. lawyers as I do, I doubt whether you will receive the revised threshold on time- but here’s hoping.
    They have made the mistake of issuing the original one before establishing the freely available facts and now their priority will be to double down on justifying their actions. Right now they will be scouring school and medical files looking for negative, suggestive and incriminating entries and ‘clues’ about your family whilst at the same time discounting all positive, exonerating evidence. This tendency to carry out a dishonest witch hunt rather than an impartial investigation increases after an ICO has been issued on the basis of false documents.
    Mike, a senior Judge ( Lord Mumby ) has expressed exasperation at lawyers and stressed that they must be open and honest with the Court.
    I suggest that to be open and candid, the L.A. lawyers should declare openly in Court that the I.C.O was issued on the basis that you were a criminal rapist and a gunman which has now proven to be false. Thus the order should be discharged forthwith and the children returned to you.
    Alas, the lawyers are not open and candid. I emphasise, it is not the SW’S, it is the lawyers who are dishonest.
    Yes, they will take the issues out of the amended document but will not make any further comment .It will be brushed under the carpet.
    I hope I am wrong in your case. As Sarah says, you should not point out the dishonesty and ask for your children back whatever you do or it will be said you are uncooperative and lose the case for that reason. It truly is a difficult situation the children and you are in. Once again. good luck! You are very wise to heed Sarah’s advise.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Angelo, that would be fine if ALL the threshold contained were those allegations. I haven’t seen the papers but I doubt very much that these were the only things on the threshold.

      Reply
  34. Mike

    One more thing can I challenge an interim care order before the final hearing ? Things have changed since the original interim care order was presented to the court.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      yes you can but you need to be clear why you are doing this. If its because there is a significant change of circumstances, it might be worth doing. But ‘interim’ hearings can never deal with issues as fully as final hearings – so if the final hearing is in only a few weeks or no more than a few months, the court may be much more inclined to wait so that all issues can be dealt with fully at the final hearing.

      Reply
  35. Mike

    Hello and thanks for your thoughts on my situation. The threshold document only contains 5 points the first four are the same just set out in a different form. So Coercive and controlling behaviour. Causing emotional harm and at risk at causing physical harm. Those are the first four points. So the physical harm is a none starter because there is no proof to this claim. As to coercive behaviour how do you prove that without the person making the claim being cross examined. As to emotional harm how is that proven as surely this is subjective. Finally “ mother has failed to protect the children from physical and emotional harm. As the mother is not appearing how is this proved. These are the threshold points not the revised threshold as this has not been presented. Sarah why can the LA not produce the revised threshold ordered by the court ? How will they account for their non compliance?

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Mike, You must go through it all with your barrister who will guide you. I have tried to explain that the Family Court does not need to prove facts in the normal manner; it allows for hearsay, predications( propositions made on conjecture), so-called professional, impartial, risk and parenting assessments ,value judgments and so on. Then the Judge decides what the likelihoods and probabilities etc. at his own discretion. In the vast majority of cases ,unfortunately for the children , he or she will go-along with whatever the L.A. suggests as they are the public body granted the mandate to decide what is in the children’s best interests. Not the judge and not you!
      The problem is that if you disagree with them and ask for your children home, it goes against you. Please note also that even if you accept the threshold and agree to accept a full care-order, they have answers to that too. They may say you are minimising the issues or alternatively that you are ‘disguised compliance’– Another one is that you will be ‘unlikely’ to make changes in timescales for the children.
      You must engage with your solicitor and once again,i stress, make sure ALL the names of extended family willing to offer family support are involved. Arrange a family conference.
      Sometimes the professionals may say in their statements that no member of family willing has ‘been identified’. In reality that is because they haven’t asked for names or tried to identify anyone. That is obviously what happened when the children were removed in the first place.
      I repeat engage with your solicitor . Also try and get an independent advocate.

      Reply
  36. Mike

    Thank you Angelo. You paint a depressing picture. Surely the judge decides on the evidence from both sides and not just the LA side of events. Let me remind you the judge in my case has said publicly that all the evidence against me appears to be Hearsay. Therefore this evidence can not be challenged and if challenged the judge must decide what weight he gives to second hand accounts of statements. If the statements are from a party who can not be cross examined on what does this infer ?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Angelo has a very bleak view which I do not share. In my experience, the Judge will listen to the evidence from all and weigh it carefully.

      Reply
  37. Angelo Granda

    Sorry for depressing you,Mike and , of course, I hope you get a perfectly fair hearing ,open to the public with ample legal funding etc. I hope the Judge does examine both sides of the evidence impartially.
    I am only talking from experience of what happened to me some years ago also on that of other commentators on this resource.
    The L.A’s are very, very experienced and usually follow the same templates. In many cases, including ours and yours, they flout court orders and lodge evidence late,for example. They don’t do it by mistake or through overwork, it is probably deliberate ( on the balance of probabilities). As a result ,your statements will be late and/or rushed and the Guardian appointed may not even get to see your evidence-in-chief before reporting nor will other independents such as doctors and psychologists. The authorities are well=practiced in deceit; they don’t follow due process and guidelines.
    Often, when your evidence with theirs, the Judge will merely weigh it up carefully and criticise parents for being argumentative and daring to disagree with profe3ssionals. If one complains about malpractice through official procedures ,the Judge may well slate one for doing so and getting professionals into trouble. You must not go into proceedings thinking they are wrong and you are right no matter what the professionals say and do. NO MATTER WHAT FALSE EVIDENCE they put to the Court or you will be deemed unable to co-operate ; they may even say you have a personality disorder.
    The lawyers know the score and that is why they always advise complete co-operation. You cannot prove you are right, it’s impossible for anyone to prove there is no risk. Concerns have been raised ,whether true or false, that fact has got the L.A. a hearing in a secret family court and they win an estimated 94 per cent of cases.
    Concentrate on due procedure and get all the six sets of relations into the loop.Get them to see your barrister .
    In our case, the Judge ordered the C.S. to assess one of our relations and they testified to court he was not suitable. I have since found out they never even contacted him or his wife or see them.
    Mike ,I stress all this may not happen in your case ,all I want to do is warn you.
    Follow Sarah’s advice and that of your new barrister.

    Reply
  38. Mike

    Hi Sarah I was wondering what is the position of the police when conducting an. ABE interview can they the police offer bribes to the children for them to talk ? Is this standard practice ? Have you ever come across a police force that offers such incentives for information? Secondly is it normal for the interviewing officers to speak to the child prior to the interview and then say in interview “ remember what we said “also is it the norm that the interviewing officer leaves the room to ask the SW if there are any other questions that should be put to the child. Surely the police should have a list of points they need to prove without interference from a LA Representative who wants to make a case for the LA.
    Hopefully you can reply quickly to the above points.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It is pretty normal for a police officer to leave to check with the SW that they have covered everything. However, it is contrary to best practice to offer ‘bribes’ to children or to encourage them to say anything – the point of the ABE interview is to establish ‘free narrative recall’ otherwise there is a real risk that the child’s evidence will be corrupted. The interview is NOT an opportunity to get the child to repeat what they said somewhere else. That is also a breach of good practice and the ABE interviewing guidelines.

      Reply
  39. Angelo Granda

    Sarah, We aren’t far apart .Really, if you think about it , the system is not a bad, old one designed to make decisions in the best interests of children.
    Proportionality and human rights are the problem. Plus the basic myth that the care-system is better for them than family.It is disastrous for them. The L.A’s don’t care for them adequately and they are open to severe abuse and degradation in care. The children are just numbers on a register to them.
    Two questions if you don’t mind.
    1.Do you agree with me that it is inhumane to impose degradation on citizens except when it is an inherent part of lawful sanctions?
    2.Do you agree that civil family courts, when deciding on the best interests of children are not imposing lawful sanctions but politically inspired sanctions based on opinion and value-judgments?
    3. Or, as a lawyer, do you procrastinate and say it is arguable?

    We must really get to grips with human rights.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I think we are very far apart – you seem to think of the ‘law’ as something that exists beyond humans. But humans make the law and interpret and enforce the law. What is your distinction between a ‘lawful sanction’ and a ‘politically inspired sanction’?

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        1.Sanctions, in law and legal definition, are penalties or other means of enforcement used to provide incentives for obedience with the law, or with rules and regulations. Criminal sanctions can take the form of serious punishment, such as corporal or capital punishment, incarceration, or severe fines.

        This is the definition of a lawful sanction from the dictionaries.

        I think that definition does not apply at all to Family Court sanctions which are not penalties nor are they meant to discourage disobedience with the law.No-one is charged with an offence ,the Family Court issues care orders when it finds on the balance of probabilities that it will be in the best interests of children,that is all.The sanctions imposed are not made because of disobedience with any laws but based on discretionary judgments,professional ‘assessments and value judgments.

        But i’m no lawyer,if you think i’m talking nonsense,please say so and explain why because it’s burning me up. There are literally hundreds of children suffering degradation ( and mental torture) plus all sorts of abuse and exploitation right now and also hundreds locked away under D.O.L orders.

        We can’t ignore it any longer surely . The Lords are onto it if you saw my previous link to the child – protection debacle in Northern Ireland.

        Reply
        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I cannot doubt your genuine fear and anxiety about the matters you raise, and I hope you don’t think that I ever disrespect or diminish that. But in all our conversations over the years, the fundamental tension remains – the civil law around child protection is not the same as the criminal law around depriving people of liberty. I know a lot of people disagree with that! But it has been exhaustively discussed by the people who wrote the legislation – holding family courts to same standards of proof as criminal courts will put more children at risk.

          this is NOT me being an apologist for sloppy thinking or poor analysis. But inevitably the different standards of proof will impact on how evidence is gathered and cases conducted. I don’t think this is a product of wholesale, malign refusal to recognise and protect the legal rights of parents. But I can see how it must look and feel to many parents.

          Reply
  40. Mike

    I addressed my concerns over the police Incentivising my children to talk by offering them rewards at the end of the interviews. I now have the written account of these interviews and the police condemn themselves by saying “ what is you favourite chocolate and my daughter replies “ Kinder” then the police officer say “ yes I know you have been waiting all day for that” secondly at times when questioned my children will say “ I don’t remember “ followed by the police saying “ tell me what we talked about before”
    There are numerous occasions when this type of dialogue takes place which clearly shows the police and SW have clearly spoken to the children before the interview took place. Surely this ABE evidence is compromised Corrupted and contaminated. Can you advise how I should approach the breaking of the ABE guide lines.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It is permissible and often advisable to carry out pre interview preparation for children. What isn’t permissible is interfering or corrupting the ability of the children to offer a ‘free narrative’. That is crucial for the credibility of the interview process. The children should be giving a free account of their experiences. So you need to look out for ‘leading questions’ – i.e. those that suggest the answer you want or requests to repeat what they told the social worker yesterday etc, etc.

      You challenge this in either cross examination of the interviewer or in your submissions. If you think the interview is really awful then you need to think about asking the court to order that the police office interviewing the children comes to be cross examined. But sometimes you can deal with this effectively in your own statement or in submissions. You need to talk this through with your lawyer about best strategies

      Reply
  41. Mike

    Thank you Sarah for your advice . As I thought hopefully the LA will realise that the ABE interview is bordering on the illegal even though I believe the police have taken their brief from the social services.

    Reply
  42. Mike

    Can you answer me this question are the police in an ABE interview expected to be impartial or do they work with the social services to prove points which the LA will rely on in its threshold hold document ?
    So in fact do the police conducting the interviews know what points they need to prove so ask questions accordingly. Also after reading the transcripts of the ABE interviews it is very clear that no positive questions are put to the interviewees. So lots of question like “ what makes you sad “ NO questions “ what makes you happy “. There seems to be an agenda set out to pursuing a negative narrative !

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      It is difficult as the police and children’s services are expected to ‘work together’ and may often share a common goal – getting evidence about an abusive adult to protect children for e.g. Sadly history is littered with examples when professionals in both groups have dangerously overreached themselves and acted on initial assumptions rather than a clear eyed appraisal of the evidence before them. This is of course extremely harmful as it makes it less likely that the guilty adults will be found and restrained and more likely that innocent adults will face very serious allegations.

      I think all you can do is sit down with your legal team and identify the necessary challenges to the interview process, in order to make the court look carefully at whether or not it is reliable.

      Reply

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