Screaming “Corruption” won’t address the real changes that need to be made.

This is a post by Conference on Coercive Control, an individual who wishes to remain anonymous. I am grateful for the time they have taken to write this post, in an attempt to move forward the debate about the family justice system to a more constructive arena. There are things we can do to improve matters; we should not be doomed to simply shout at each other from our different sides of the divide. Rather than continue to put the focus on a ‘corrupt’ or broken system, we need to be looking at what we could practically do, to make things better. 

It has become almost commonplace for the words “corrupt”, “secret” and “family courts” to be conjoined in a splenetic invective centring on children snatched from loving parents by conspiratorial social workers pushing a forced adoption agenda or by fathers denied their rights to see children due to alienation or contact denial. A system oft described as ‘broken’ where lawyers become rich on decisions made behind closed doors in “secret” family courts.
‘200 children cruelly lose contact with their fathers every day in secret family courts” claims a fathers rights group, whilst elsewhere, headlines talk of parents fleeing the country to escape local authorities intent on removing children. That the family justice system is callous, corrupt and broken is an oft repeated refrain in certain circles and I imagine many people throwing up their hands in despair and those about to enter the process terrified by what they are about to face.

It is not just angry parents who feel the system is failing. Professionals wade in adding fuel to an already intensely burning flame yet not everyone involved (professionals included) have the full facts to hand so the discourse quickly descends into an embittered exchange of poorly-informed rants instead of becoming a discussion on how effective changes can be made so that a system that is struggling can improve.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand anger. I also understand the mistrust of the local authority. Having been in a situation where I nearly lost my children to adoption due to a false allegation, having been involved with a person so devious, he maintained a campaign of blackmail and control for years, keeping it well below the radar to near-devastating effect and having had my mental health questioned so often even though, to this date, I have never been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness.

Yup, I know all about anger and all about professionals misreading a situation of smoke and mirrors.
But before talking further about these so- called “corrupt” family courts…

My experience of the family court system

a little bit about me…
Without delving into specifics, I have been in the family court for over 30 hearings. For about 20 of them, I did not qualify for legal aid. Although there was proof of domestic violence I did not pass the means test and so represented myself as a Litigant in Person. I can honestly say that the whole experience was one of the most traumatic of my life. It was all-consuming and for nearly 2 years it dominated my life as I learned to become a lay lawyer. Each time the postman came, I held my breath. I waited with dread for yet another court application to drop on the mat. Each time the phone rang I would freeze. Panicking if it showed a withheld number fearful of yet another fictitious allegation made to the police and designed to send me into a tailspin. To this day, I still hold my breath when the post van arrives and keep holding on whilst I walk (slooowly) to the front door. His need to keep making applications is ongoing and so I wait. Old habits die hard.

I learned to represent myself when I was still recovering from his abuse so was often prone to floods of tears. Having to manage my own case file with all the information still raw and searingly painful and against a backdrop of a pending criminal investigation was far from easy. There was literally no escape, no mental escape from the trauma, no escape from the flashbacks, the nightmares. Living on “high alert” with the constant fear that he would return to the house to break in again and this time with more than a crowbar. There was certainly no escape from the ever growing pile of paperwork that was threatening to take over the house and no escape from the reams and reams of paperwork he sent me as part of his statement with information designed to deeply humiliate me in court to deflect from what I was saying. I swear that year my stomach had taken up temporary residency near my tonsils.

I was very, very lucky in that my wonderful SOIT arranged for support to make sure I was ok and so I received extensive counselling, some weeks I had 5 hours and I needed it. It was this support that gave me the strength to carry on. It was a God-send to know that if I couldn’t cope, it was only a day or two until therapy. It helped me focus.

My biggest fear was meeting my abuser in court and not being able to control my bodily functions. I would be so tense that if my stomach lurched hard enough at the sight of him, I would have to run off to vomit or worse. There were several occasions where I incurred the wrath of the judge because I had to run off, at a moment’s notice to the loo to dry retch. I don’t think the judge ever really understood the impact of being in the same room as the man who did what he did. How could he? The man in front of him was charming and softly spoken and said all the right things. How was the judge to know that saying the right thing was easy and meaningless? Putting it into practice, not so much. To the judge, the end of the relationship signalled the end of the abuse. We needed to concentrate on contact. We needed to move forward.

I would try to keep my tears in check by clenching my teeth, aware that it would make me look stern, possibly even angry but I was scared my body would leak so my words would come out distorted in either a barely audible whisper or a robotic monotone. To stop from crying I opened my eyes wide. Thinking of it now, I possibly may have looked a little crazy but I needed to do all I could to not collapse into sobs. Either way, it contrasted greatly with his ability to talk mellifluously, even tell a small joke or two. Yes, judges need training on how people can change their persona and their demeanour. I’m sure some get it but just not enough of them do, sadly.
At some hearings I would sit stock still, not move at all, hardly breathe and just stare ahead determined not to cry even though my eyes were stinging from tears forbidden to fall.

Sometimes I could feel myself shaking from exhaustion. The few days before a hearing would play havoc with my sleep. He sometimes made a joke about me being mentally ill and paranoid and both he and the judge would laugh. I wanted to shout out, why are you falling for this act? I do not have a mental illness. Read the bundle. I wanted to scream that my perceived mental illness was a fiction to explain away the sleep deprivation from being woken up by him 4 or 5 times during the night, lack of sleep, the stress, caring for a baby. All were reasons for my sluggishness and disorientation. But for him it was convenient to say “Look at her, she can’t cope- it’s because she is mentally ill”. It was a distraction that helped to gloss over his abuse, but I stayed silent. I was too worried my stomach would let me down – or worse.

Those were my experiences. Traumatic and deeply distressing and I have heard many others say the same of their experiences. Whatever the reason for finding yourself in the family court, the experience of court is horrific but, even with the misinterpretations, lack of training, some really dubious report writing and certain conclusions that were so way out I suspected the author may have been high, I do not believe the courts are corrupt.

Family courts are not ‘corrupt’ but the Judges NEED training

What I DO believe is that many judges and magistrates are out of touch with what happens, especially where domestic violence is concerned. Their understanding of the dynamics of abuse, perpetrator tactics and victim behaviour does not reflect what happens in real life and that concerns me greatly. I especially believe there is very little understanding of the coercive and controlling behaviour that can reduce a person to a hostage in their own home but without a bruise or fracture to validate their fear. There is an urgent need for training to help identify behaviour that is invisible to the untrained eye so that outcomes reflect the actual situation and not the distorted picture that has been presented. All too often what appears to be a high conflict split has been categorised as ‘toxic’ and whereas this can be the case, often underlying coercive control has not been identified and so the abuser remains able to manipulate and control in the knowledge that it will not be seen as abuse but six of one and half a dozen of the other.

Training-Training-Training

I believe some very poor decisions are being made due to a general lack of understanding. Training should not be confined solely to Judges. Social workers, Cafcass officers, expert witnesses, lawyers as well as court staff need to be aware. There needs to be a shift from looking at isolated incidents to identifying patterns of behaviour and more training across all sectors will help to change the way domestic abuse is investigated by creating better awareness and understanding to identify and evidence abuse that hides in plain sight.

Evidence

Evidence is not always available in the form of an outright confession or CCTV footage and sometimes evidence needs to be gathered in a different way. This could apply to witnesses. Courts are hugely intimidating to most people and often court staff, lawyers and judges forget this. Courts are scary enough for the parties involved in an actual hearing but for witnesses whose only involvement is to provide information, it can be too much and so many are reluctant to go to court thus depriving someone of valuable evidence. By making the process less intimidating for someone to act as a witness, it would be a benefit especially in cases of domestic violence, abuse and child neglect, cruelty where people are reluctant to get involved for fear of getting it wrong or for fear of retribution from the party they have information on.

Court does not make people angry

I also don’t feel the court system is broken. It is in need of a systems upgrade but it is not broken. It is the people coming in to the court who are broken. Court doesn’t make people angry, the come in angry and a high stress environment will only increase the likelihood of volatility. When looking at improving the court process, it is vital that the parties themselves are not excluded. A less traumatic experience can only have long term benefits not just for the parties but also the efficient running of the court.

A Plea for Pre-Hearing Counselling

There is a duty CAFCASS officer in court on family days to help with children. I believe that Litigants in Persons should have someone there for them to help with information and for support. A Pre-Hearing Counselling Session would be a session where a counsellor or similar is on duty to help explain the court process, calculate rough timescales as to length of the matter, what to expect in a hearing, an explanation of what the judge is looking for but more importantly, that person should be a calming influence with good negotiating and people skills and able to engage with people who are emotional and agitated and put them at their ease. They will be able to, at least in part, inform, ease someone’s distress, assuage their fears as well as signpost them on to counsellors or suitable support services they may need. I believe a friendly face in court would allay a great deal of the fear, tension, distress and animosity, especially one who could say. “Look, I understand your anger but for this matter, you have to put it to one side as it won’t help you and it won’t help your child.” then get the parties to see that feelings of anger, hurt and betrayal are natural but using it as a weapon helps no one.

Post – Hearing Counselling

To help parties consolidate and come to terms with what just happened.

Vulnerable People are Easily Exploited

I have lost count of the times I have said to someone who has contacted me, if you want contact, start a dialogue but don’t expect much cooperation if you’ve put their photo on Facebook and are calling for them to be sent to prison for contact denial. In some cases, the hostility started from the word go and has escalated into an entrenched impasse but often, the hostility has come from family or friends and it has dictated the direction of the split and the injured party has been caught up in the conflict. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have heard that someone was hurt, upset and betrayed by the loss of their relationship and they did not know where to turn, who to speak to and they allowed themselves to be convinced by the anger of their friends or family or some action group and are in a situation where everyone feels personally invested. There is a role for family and friends to act as go-betweens but only if they are able to sit on the fence and remain neutral. A huge problem is that people love to feel involved, even interfere and some use the opportunity to wage war.

Many years ago, a male friend told a female friend that if the father of her children did not pay maintenance, she should stop contact. The father had been made redundant and his ex-wife was sympathetic to his plight but I could see the effect her friend’s anger was having on her and at the time I felt his involvement was unhelpful and told him. He responded in two syllables. Often litigants have no idea of the legal process and rely on false information. They are distressed, worried about legal costs, intimidated by the thought of court, suspicious of lawyers and frightened. One thing I have learnt from being with an abuser is that vulnerable people are easily exploited and this is as true of a divorcee coming across a ‘charmer’ as it is of a distraught dad coming across some of the angry and unhelpful ‘advice’ in the form of people who have had bad experiences and lash out at the system. Better signposting for available help in the form of either legal advice or therapy would be hugely beneficial and would help those in distress with no way of knowing where to go to avoid those out to exploit.

Interview your lawyer

For those lucky enough to have legal representation, lawyers can and do offer support and advice and I have known some brilliant lawyers who were able to get a client to maintain focus on a desired outcome and not go over to the Dark Side. I have also known some pretty bad lawyers who have been dismissive, have not taken the trouble to explain things adequately but continued to flummox with legal jargon leaving a client perplexed and excluded at their own hearing. Some are in desperate need of people skills and some hold deeply ingrained beliefs that are contrary to their client’s. It is important to make sure the lawyer you choose is one you can work with. Much the process will be deeply uncomfortable and distressing with sometimes very personal information being discussed so it is important to feel comfortable with the person representing you.

Make sure they ”Get It”

Most lawyers are lovely, though admittedly even the lovely ones don’t’ always understand your experiences and it is important that they do. As an example, the dynamics of domestic violence/coercive control or a deep mistrust of social services are not always understood or acknowledged. I have often heard lawyers dismiss domestic violence as a ‘legal aid matter’ and some hold the view that abuse is only serious if it has been physical. A client needs to make sure their lawyer “gets them” and understands their situation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of them.

Reactions

Sometimes it gets forgotten that people in a state of high distress are incapable of thinking straight. It’s not that they don’t want to but the hurt, the fear, the anguish sits there and dominates proceedings and they sometimes react unexpectedly. This needs to be remembered. Court staff, lawyers, magistrates, judges need to be aware of this. People in distress don’t always react the way normally expected of them. Abusers can cry, and they do and some actually look as though they mean it. They admit their mistakes and say they have learnt but not all are sincere. Victims don’t always cry. They can come off as more aggressive that the alleged perpetrator. Some have an unfortunate nervous laugh. Often they come across as defensive and brittle. Corner a frightened animal in a cage, they don’t always cower. Adequate training for court staff, magistrates, lawyers, judges, social workers, CAFCASS should be mandatory so that in family cases, both private and public, there will be better insight Having been in hearings where it is obvious the Judge has no idea of who to believe and which direction to take, training would help to make a decision that is appropriate. I will always remember the words of a solicitor who said, of a judge who was fair. “Being fair isn’t always right”.

Self–Defeating Attitude Kills Hope

It is a huge judgement on my part, I know, but some people are just so wrong for the job. I recall a lawyer who, arms folded, towering over my seated position and glowering, hissed at me that if I did not agree to her client’s demands, there would be hearing upon hearing upon hearing until I had no money. She advertised herself as a domestic abuse lawyer and she was representing my abuser. I have to say, I was terrified. Not just by what she said but by her aggressive stance and intimidating body language. There should be no place for bullies in a domestic abuse situation. I have met many people who, at the start of their career, would have had a passion for their work, be it law, statutory services, the volunteer sector but somewhere along the line they have become despondent, disillusioned, bitter, resentful, have given up but not yet left the building. If you are an employer and looking for change, for progress, you need to have people who believe it can happen. Nothing will change if the prevailing view is “What’s the point, nothing will happen, why bother, nobody listens, nothing ever changes” Negative thinking and a self-defeating attitude will 100% guarantee that nothing gets done and, in the case of domestic violence, when you are advising a victim of abuse that there is a way out, there is a chance to start again, you’re not trapped. How will a victim believe that, if they know you don’t? If you no longer believe in what you do, it’s time to get out.

Practical Changes

There are some changes that could be made fairly easily and which would create a less cumbersome system which could potentially go some way towards creating a better experience. One of them is staggered arrival times. I speak for myself and others when they describe the terror of arriving in court with the possibility that they may bump into their ex with a possible entourage. I have been known to hide in bushes because of queues for the security check and I did not want to risk my abuser walking up behind me. I have also known an abuser bring his extended family to wait for him before the court opened. His ex had to force herself to walk past the sneering and name calling. Maybe staggered arrival times aren’t always practical, maybe some courts could put in place separate entrances for applicants and respondents. It seems extravagant to give each a private meeting room and this could be a simple way of reducing the likelihood of an unwanted encounter.

In cases where there is domestic violence where victims of abuse act in person, a coding system could be arranged whereby on arrival, the victim could show a discrete badge or ticket and the security guard could accompany them to a separate waiting room without a huge disruption. Court staff could then inform their arrival to the Usher. It is very common that abusers will chose to sit either right by the Usher, the door to the loo or the water cooler. I have known some that will happily switch between all three, knowing that every time they move position, it creates distress. I have heard many stories of victims transfixed to their seat and unable to go to the loo or the water cooler and have often gone into a hearing parched and bursting for the loo. I feel that often court staff do not get it. An innocent gesture of the perpetrator opening the door for the victim and accidentally brushing their hand is enough to intimidate a victim into silence yet looks harmless to the untrained eye. Keeping applicants and respondents apart would minimise much of the subtle ‘below the radar’ forms of intimidation seen in coercive control.

Maybe creating separate waiting rooms is not feasible so maybe screens could be put up to give at least some semblance of protection from intimidating stares although diehard intimidators will use heavy sighs, coughs and annoying finger clicking to announce their presence, the main purpose of which is to signal “ Yoo hoo, I’m here and I know you can hear me”.

Court staff should be made aware of subtle forms of intimidation so they can report it to the judge. I remember a hearing where the abuser was accompanied by a Mackenzie friend with an exceptionally loud booming voice. Whilst waiting to be called into the hearing, the MKF would stand by the victim and have a conversation, very loudly, in Italian (which I suspect only she and the MKF spoke). The conversation was less than polite about her but how do you prove it? Luckily, he was so loud, the usher asked him to continue out in the stairwell whereupon he stood just outside the ladies lavatory. Classic intimidation but who would have recognised it?
Someone else told me that their abuser would delicately run his index finger down his face, it was a code to her to say he would cut her face. To everyone else it looked like he was brushing off a stray hair. Training and observation. Much better training. That is what is needed.

Feeding the meter

Parking for court hearings is another thorny subject. It never fails to amaze me that conference halls can organise tickets for all day parking yet with hearings, lawyers and their clients often have to dash out to feed a meter which, at an all-day hearing, is not only distracting but adds to the stress levels already at play. I fail to see the difficulty in a system whereby a person due in court can purchase a half day/full day parking permit online when they are listed for a hearing.

Listings

I fail to see the reasoning behind listing a hearing for 10 am and then having to hang around all day waiting to go into court. I understand the bit about not wasting the judge’s time but, in light of legal aid cuts, all this hanging around must be a huge drain on the public purse.

Court Security

I can laugh about it now but I remember the time I arrived at the court with an urgent ex parte application for an occupation order. I arrived and asked the security guard where I could deliver it only for him to shout, “Why are you coming here with an occupation order? We’re not the bloody job centre, you know!”

Finally
In conclusion, some suggestions I would have welcomed as a LiP which would have made the whole process a little less distressing but, if I am completely honest, I would have put up with a hearing in a barn with a mouldy squat loo if it meant the judges, lawyers, court staff et al had received comprehensive training in identifying below the radar non-physical abuse.

Now there’s a thought.

95 thoughts on “Screaming “Corruption” won’t address the real changes that need to be made.

  1. Angelo Granda

    I agree with the writer of this post that ‘corruption’ is not the right word to use about the Family Court system.
    All the problems with the system she describes scream out that the civil family court should not be hearing cases of the serious nature outlined.
    When allegations of serious dv etc are made by any party,cases should ,in my opinion , be held in a court able to handle it. That would entail all the facts being subjected to a full investigation by Police including taped or videoed interviews of all parties , the taking of signed statements from witnesses, parents,children etc. before proceedings commence. Then witnesses should be able to present at court to give evidence in person and in public. Justice must be seen to be done.
    Faced with all the evidence against him or her, the real culprit tends to own up to transgressions and succumb to the truth,plead guilty etc. This is why it is so important that serious hearings must be in Public. That is the weakness of the guilty who cannot deny the truth when it is put to them by living witnesses. In serious cases also , i think parents should be able to opt for a jury trial ( regardless of expense) as is normal in criminal cases. A choice is often given between Magistrates or Crown Court.
    Furthermore,an ordinary court has the power to make more appropriate protective orders. It does not have to consider LA budgets etc.
    I say to the writer,if any woman alleges controlling behaviour,mental cruelty and domestic violence against a partner or spouse, then she deserves a criminal investigation . The offence should be treated on a par with rape.
    I will be interested in her opinion of my view and the comments of others.

    Reply
    1. CCC

      Thank you for your comments.
      Before I add my bit I would like to say that the piece I had originally written disappeared during a disastrous cut and paste attempt and this article was quickly cobbled together from memory. Not everything in the original made it here which goes some way to explaining why it is a bit disjointed.

      I don’t think the problem is with which court a domestic violence matter is heard, I feel it is more important that judges receive proper training in understanding that much abuse is a pattern of behaviour and that by focussing on isolated incidents, it could well mean that the evidence threshold is not reached. If the domestic violence matter also includes divorce and child arrangements, hearing everything in one court with one judge means that things potentially won’t get missed – if training has been put in place and the awareness is there.

      Very often these cases are complex with counter allegations muddying the waters so it can be difficult to ascertain who the perpetrator is. This is the case when a victim reacts to the actions of a perpetrator and so it is vital that a judge is able to pull apart all the evidence to determine who is actually committing the abuse.

      Also, not all domestic violence is easy to evidence, especially if there has been no violence and the lower standard of proof in a civil court means it is more likely that an abuser is held accountable for the abuse. I think that with proper training and more judicious use of injunctions, judges would be able to reach the heart of the matter much more effectively than is currently happening.

      You wrote:
      ” Faced with all the evidence against him or her, the real culprit tends to own up to transgressions and succumb to the truth,plead guilty etc”
      I think that is probably true when there is evidence of injury but in my experience, abusers are very devious in that they will deflect blame by turning the tables and accusing the victim of being the abuser and others will admit to only a fraction of what they have been accused of to give the appearance of honesty whilst at the same time minimising the perception of risk.
      I have certainly known of quite a few abusers who use this tactic and who have been viewed positively by Cafcass officers quoting Sturge and Glaser because they were able to acknowledge harm and then have gone on to carry on their abuse post separation.

      I do agree though that there should be more protective orders. The current practice of “encouraging” an applicant to accept an undertaking when a non-molestation order would have been more appropriate gives an abuser much greater opportunity to abuse undetected.

      Reply
    2. Angelo Granda

      I understand your comment completely and thank you for it. It has made me think and i greatly sympathise with parties to dv cases and i agree that excessive controlling behaviour ( anger,threats,demonstration in the form of chucking plates at the wall etc. can also be criminal).
      I recognise that the offender will have explanations for his or her behaviour and i recognise that most offences will occur behind closed doors at home and is difficult to prove. An offender may also be in denial and may lie to a court.
      However ,i stick to my view that in these cases the Family Courts as they currently operate are not fit to decide the issues. 20-30 hearings is ridiculous.
      First of all, a criminal investigation should have been instigated and based on an impartial investigation of FACTS. That would include ‘achieving best evidence ‘ interviews with those closely involved including near neighbours. Evidence from Mum would be checked over as to facts ,likewise evidence from Dad.The Criminal Court proceedings are open to the Public and witnesses permitted to present evidence for consideration. Procedures would be strictly enforced.
      If the Family Court would stick to facts and to correct procedure, i would probably think differently but until that happens……….. I wish you luck with your problems.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        Angelo, i don’t disagree at all. But the problem is – and we have had this conversation many times now as well – is how are we going to practically implement this?
        You are suggesting a simply massive expansion in the role of the criminal justice system. the one we have now is barely alive. I do not know how we are going to find the government will to spend the vast amounts of money needed to train and employ many thousand more police offfices, appoint many hundreds of new judges and open up many new prisons.
        One of the reasons i suspect the system is so woeful at dealing with violence and abuse is that there is simply no where to put these people. Prisons are full, perpetrator courses have uncertain outcomes and you can’t force therapy on people.
        This is why i keep on saying that the answer must be to go back to the roots – how are we parented? Are we taught to love and respect ourselves and not to enter into relationships with people who show us neither love nor respect?

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          Perhaps the CPS should have its powers curtailed.They should not be allowed to ponder cases so long and disallowed from refuising to prosecute cases on the grounds it is not in the Public interest when it clearly is.That might be a practical way forward.

          Reply
        2. Angelo Granda

          Sarah, i agree that we have to consider how we are parented ,how to love and respect ourselves and others and that we should be more careful before making babies etc.
          So how are we parented? Are we brought up to be morally good by example or are we brought up to be morally bad by example?

          Do you agree that children in the same family can differ totally in morals?

          I think that is true and i propose that parents are not to blame in this day and age. As i have said before, boys will endeavour not to follow in the footsteps of an abusive father ( although they may pick up some bad habits). Likewise a girl will not follow an abusive Mum.

          We are too quick to blame the cycle of bad parenting and inherited traits for moral badness. You might be thinking ,well who else can be blamed but the parents?

          These days most children spend most of their waking hours away from the care of their parents. They start at nursery at the age of two or three years (part-time or full-time ) and then at the age of four or five they start at infant school. Then they go on to the juniors and senior schools staying until they are eighteen. I believe their behaviours ( good or bad ) are formed in the education system either by the moral teaching they receive from teachers and their examples or what they learn in the playground from their peers and elder pupils.They also learn much behaviour from TV and other media including the advertising.

          Up until the time when more and more Mums started going out to work and nurseries became more commonly used ( i don’t want to get into a discussion about women’s rights, i am just discussing some practical difficulties) it was the opinion of child educational psychologists that the right age for a child to leave the wing of Mum’s care was five years of age . It was felt their brains were not sufficiently well developed until they reached that age and when they did start school they were much more teachable than they are now, they had already developed language,play skills, some reading and drawing skills and their general approach to right and wrong was already partially formed.
          Since sending ones children to nursery ( previously frowned upon) has become p.c. as a result of changes ,i think the main blame for badly reared children lies with the Authorities.
          Do the authorities accept any responsibility for moral badness? No, they blame the parents every time.
          Yet children spend most of their daytime hours at school. So who is failing them?
          I look forward to your views about this. It may be a bit of a sideline to this thread but important nevertheless.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            There is a strong argument for children entering childcare and education settings later in life, it is done elsewhere, and there is no impact on educational achievement. That is in a different culture though where there is generally more support for parents to be at home with their children and where people pay higher taxes to facilitate that for everyone. They are also societies which consider both parents to have a caring responsibility.

            Blame isn’t helpful, understanding why people behave the way they do is. Behaviours aren’t inherited they are learnt or they evolve as the result of an experience. An abused child does not always become an abusive parent, there is no strong causational link. I think it is fairly irrelevant that mum or dad is the abuser, either to the child or to the outcomes. The way that abuse causes trauma can of course affect parenting, since most abuse is perpetrated inside the home, that doesn’t really make sense of “the authorities” being responsible.

            What you are saying though means that parents abdicate all responsibility for their children, how they evolve, and how then then behave. Behaviours in children being a form of communication about what is going on for them. There are of course other influenced but parents are responsible for raising their children. Nobody else.

            I wish you would stop using the term moral badness. You may not but I wish you would. All human beings are more nuanced than that, except the rare psychopath.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Its an interesting point you raise.
            My daughter was in full time nursery from the age of 7 months. So if she grows up full of ‘moral badness’ is that my fault because I chose to go and work rather than raise her?

            I reject that proposition. She is clearly ‘my’ daughter and she is clearly a product of my values and my teachings – because when I am with her, I am really ‘with’ her and take time to engage with her.

            Many of the families that I get involved with have children who are exposed at a very early age to lives of terrifying instability, due to parents’ substance abuse or mental health issues. that explains the ‘push’ to get more children into nursery as it is only in those structured settings that the children are actually safe to learn and explore and will get fed.

            Yes, some children have genetic problems or just issues of temperament which makes their behaviour difficult for parents to manage. It isn’t often helpful to talk about who is to ‘blame’ for a child’s bad behaviour. But I don’t think anyone could argue against the proposition that the home environment and the parents’ attitudes make up an important part of why a child becomes the adult that he or she eventually does.

            And those attitudes can be transmitted and reinforced regardless of a child’s attendance at school or nursery – for good or for ill.

          3. Angelo Granda

            I agree that parents play a big part but i am asking that we consider whether they are totally to blame for low morals . In my experience, children are often okay until they start to attend school ; then after a while they seem to change,become much more stressed and begin to develop argumentative and violent traits.As if they are engaged in a bad experience at school .Some of them lose all respect for their elders AFTER they start school not before. They begin to argue with practically everything parents try to tell them.
            When parents are forced to send children to school , they do so on the understanding that they will be taught moral values ,responsibility ,concentration,politeness, good behaviour and honour. Nowadays they aren’t even taught simple parables and moral tales or if teachers insist they are ,i certainly haven’t seen any reference to them in the workbooks.
            Consequently ,whilst i am saying the authorities must bear a lot of responsibility , that does not mean parents should abdicate all responsibility for their offspring,far from it. Indeed many parents have taken to home schooling,apparently and the children love it.
            As far as learning respect for one another before starting a relationship, that should be included in the curriculum, i propose.

          4. HelenSparkles

            I don’t think learning right from wrong needs to be in a parable or workbook, it’s in all the rewards & sanctions in place. Education is a sausage machine, it was ever thus, it doesn’t fit everyone.

          5. Angelo Granda

            Don’t forget that the bad families you describe are also a product of our education system .

  2. helensparkles

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think it is brave & very helpful of you to do so. It is particularly helpful to have such a visceral description of domestic abuse (the power and coercive control) and your own experience of the way this can be conflated with toxic or volatile relationship dynamics. There can indeed be both in a relationship but it is also really important to be able to acknowledge that volatility is also a response to DA, people might be walking on eggshells but they are also pressure cookers waiting to blow at times. I’m just going to add my 2 cents on the danger of working with perpetrators around anger management, if they can manage their anger they can conceal it, and the risks are higher for the person who looks for the signs of someone about to blow if they have that in their tool kit.

    I think the practical measures are really important, there is a lot about the system that Is what it is but listings hell is not helpful, this guy writes a lot about it and I believe is taking it to the Bar https://utterbarrister.wordpress.com/ this guy I think he also mentions parking…

    Everyone waits to go to court. In criminal cases it is often recommended that victims don’t have therapy prior to trial and I do understand why just struggle with the impact upon the victims. I also think it is very important to think about the way victims are effectively re-traumatised by the process.

    Reply
    1. CCC

      Thank you for your comment.

      I agree with much of what you say.

      There is this myth that a victim is only credible if they are “perfect” and this just isn’t true. Victims are humans and have pasts and some can also have previously been perpetrators. That is the nature of the cycle of abuse. It is important not to demonise or disregard someone who may have a less than perfect past and to treat them as less deserving of support and protection because of it.

      Your comment on anger management rings so true. There are people who have a short fuse and an inability to contain their anger and, for them, anger management would be useful but coercive controlling abusers are in complete control and will often put on an act of intense anger to frighten someone into submission. It is a way of ‘training’ victims to not contradict the abuser and avoid confrontation.

      For me, this was the most difficult thing to grasp. That someone could throw heavy items and plates of food with knives and forks at me whilst I was holding a baby and STILL be in control. It took me a long time to see that each time he had an anger outburst, it was his way of breaking me into submission.

      Someone I know had a spouse who, after they had shared a bottle of wine, would then explode into an almighty rage which frightened the victim so much they would then try and escape in the car, whereupon the abuser would calmly ring the police and report a drunk driver.

      Thank you for the blog on listings. I have often wondered whether so many barristers were on Twitter to pass the time waiting to go into court…..!

      Reply
  3. Nick Langford

    This superb post should be mandatory reading for all court staff, from judges down to ushers and security. It certainly accords with my own experience of the courts.
    Vulnerable, angry and frightened parents are inclined to misinterpret these experiences and conclude that the courts are corrupt, systemically biased, etc. My own involvement with fathers’ groups confirms this: they tend to peddle an interpretation which seems consistent but is not actually in line with the facts. I think I may have to own up to the “200 a day” figure as my own – it was accurate 10 years ago, but I have no idea if it still is.
    Fathers’ groups and their cheer leaders tend to obsess about parental alienation, to the exclusion of all else, when it is but one factor among many. Women’s groups similarly obsess about coercive control – a formula originated by the Australian White Ribbon campaign and now heavily politicised. Not all domestic violence is coercive control, and there are many other causative factors.
    My advice: steer clear of campaign groups generally, they have their own agendas which rarely have the interests of litigants at heart and certainly never consider the children. Above all, they should never be allowed to feed their toxic beliefs into the training of professionals. My own healing has been enabled by no longer viewing these issues in a gendered way.
    I was introduced to the concept of the Kübler-Ross curve in a seminar on family law presented by my wife, the current Paralegal of the Year. It was originally devised as a way of understanding the stages of bereavement, but can perfectly be applied to parents in the family courts.
    The solicitor Simone Katzenberg identifies seven stages: breakdown, shock, anger, pain, hatred, grief and finally acceptance. This is not always linear, and parents can sometimes get stuck in a cycle of anger and hatred without moving on to acceptance. Sometimes the curve is imagined as a roller-coaster, but it may be more accurate to think of it as a game of snakes and ladders, as depicted on the cover of DIY Divorce and Separation, a very useful resource for litigants.
    The important thing to understand is that parents on this curve cannot think or act rationally; they cannot negotiate or compromise, and certainly can’t behave in the interests of their children. Professionals, and especially judges, need to understand this, and assist parents on their path to recovery and healing. I strongly believe that the solution to effective reform will be mothers and fathers working together constructively with an understanding of how each other perceives the system, and not by gender-exclusive groups working in opposition: parenting, not breakdown.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      It is a shame that real issues such as parental alienation and coercive control are hijacked for a campaigning agenda.

      The Kübler-Ross change/loss model is absolutely fundamental to work with families whatever the setting, although used in the context of bereavement, it applies to any change because change always involves loss.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        I have long been suspicious of any attempt to see grief in neatly delineated stages. I think that’s bollocks. You can go through all ‘stages’ in same day, think you are ok then get blindsided again weeks or months – or years later. Very little about the human experience is linear.

        I don’t think grief can or should be ‘packaged’ in this way. One of the most damaging things I was told was that ‘healthy’ grief lasts about 18 months – any more than that is ‘wallowing’. Nonsense. Mine easily lasted five years, and that was the process I had to go through.

        But only way out is always through.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          Kübler-Ross is no linear. It is helpful in understanding responses to change/loss/grief and has been expanded upon hugely since Elizabeth created her model.

          Reply
          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Sadly, whenever it is quoted at me it is almost always in very simplistic linear terms; I found that deeply unhelpful when I was going through serious trauma and loss. I am not sure the media have picked up on any developments to Kubler-Ross’s theory. But this is hardly surprising if they are still using terms like ‘custody’ in family disputes!

      2. Sam

        I think Helen and I most be in a different country if not planet. SW made absolutely no attempt to understand my grief but purposefully aggravated my distress. They continue to do so. Lets make it clear I have never threatened them, I do use every means possible to get the truth told as my children remain at risk being placed under a care order with the abuser.
        The article is very powerful and echo’s my experience. I have also been an LIP despite having proof of DV , at one hearing I was told to sit next to the abuser. Only because I have completed assertiveness training did I say no, bearing in mind I can’t even stand the sight of his handwriting let alone him.
        I also had the snide asides between the judge and my ex’s solicitor. If the judge had any sense of decency or sensitivity he would have put a stop to it. There seemed to be little or no understanding that a DV victim would exhibit some anxiety and the court process would provide triggers. Whereas the abuser would be an accomplished actor , which is how he snares his prey in the first place and fools those who may be tempted to rescue her if they were aware of the truth.

        Reply
        1. Sam

          I forgot to add one way to make care proceedings considerably better for abuse victims would be to involve mediation as outlined at the Child Protection Conference, but with one difference using shuttle mediation so the abuser and victim do NOT sit in the same room together. Victims may not understand LA’s concerns at that moment and the accusatory manner of court proceedings and quite frankly supervised contact ( often with male supervisors in my experience) simply mimic part of abusers tactics, so a very frightened person becomes even more distressed and unable to engage. Mediation takes the heat out of the situation. It has worked successfully for me when I was head to head with the LA over another matter.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            I need to know more about mediation as described at the conference, I have used it in CP but never in abuse cases, CAFCASS guidance indicates this is contraindicated.

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Victoria was very clear that mediation is NOT about compromising on risk. It is about providing a neutral venue and neutral facilitator for discussions. It sounded very valuable to me – and I am someone who has been on two mediation trainings and is very sceptical about the whole thing.

        2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          Helen has a particular experience of SW which is generally good. Most of us commenting on this site have a particular experience of SW that isn’t good. There are many reasons for that and people should know by now that I do not think the main reasons for that are that individual SW’s are crap or lazy. I think the system is not working to let them do a good job.

          None of us do the debate any service by refusing to recognise the other’s experiences.

          I think if anyone here is unable to accept and respect the experiences of those posting, they need to step away.

          This is not a comment aimed at anyone in particular – it is of general applicability. i don’t want a repeat of what happened with the empathy post.

          Reply
      3. Angelo Granda

        Coercive control goes on all the time in family courts and as the writer describes the tactics of intimidation used by those who wish to control a vulnerable party are varied. One of these is to ignore ( turn a deaf’un to what they are saying. No-one listens to them indeed it is as if they are not present at all. Lawyers,SW’s, Guardians ,Police ,ushers, even their own solicitors are usually well-versed in proceedings .They will snigger,laugh openly,show no manners or consideration to any woman who may be in distress, spurn them as being mental etc. when they show natural symptoms of stress and will even suggest that signs of stress indicate an inability to care for children. They will allege this and they will accuse them of that without any foundation and prior to entering the Court room they will have meetings together ( to which parents are excluded ) chat together and slander them. When leaving the court, they will laugh and joke together again showing no respect for the parent who may have just suffered a great injustice.
        The only ones who will generally stick by and show respect for the respondent is their barristers who i absolve from criticism.
        One of the worst insults is whenever a parent opens his or her mouth, SW’s and Guardians etc. are there with pens and notebooks taking it all down ,scribbling consistently which is guaranteed to shut up a parent and scare them.
        We all know about coercive control and SW’s are the worst proponents of it! They do it all the time, please ,Sarah, don’t let them feign sympathy for victims of it. One of the first things they often do is coerce folk into signing S20’s.

        As the writer of this post says,there was proof of domestic violence and i feel the case should have been judged on that fact at a higher court from the beginning. Cases should not have to go to 20 or 30 hearings. The violent person should have been dealt with at the first one. The woman concerned and all witnesses would have been protected from intimidatrion by the criminal system but civil courts are not set up to deal with such problems.
        As the writer says also , no shilly-shallying about , the family court system is not corrupt but it needs to be upgraded quite extensively. Let us not bother going into the psychology of coercive control; none of us are psychologists. We should discuss changes .

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          “We all know about coercive control and SW’s are the worst proponents of it! They do it all the time, please ,Sarah, don’t let them feign sympathy for victims of it.”

          Thanks Angelo but nothing being feigned on my part.

          Reply
    2. CCC

      Thank you for your comments.

      The original article flowed better but a cut and paste disaster meant I had redo it!

      I’m not sure it is just women’s groups who ” obsess” with coercive control. What I am seeing is that there is a lot being said about coercive control by those who do not understand it. Some have their own agendas and are determined to frame their situation as cc and some are totally dismissive of it saying that it is the state interfering in private relationships.

      Without a doubt, there is too much misinformation out there and much of it by angry people determined to find a way of imprisoning their ex for either parental alienation or contact denial. The irony being that by actively trying to imprison their ex, they themselves would be guilty of the very thing they are alleging.

      I do agree though that not all domestic abuse has coercive control in it. Some people are just angry. By that I mean they have no wish to control or subjugate, they lash out because they don’t know how not to and some ” get off” on a high octane relationship of making up/breaking up. It is important that professionals are able to identify a situation and not just dismiss it as toxic because, on the surface, it looks as though they are both getting at each other.

      I am not too familiar with the Kübler-Ross curve although I am aware that grief is not always linear and that people can get stuck at a stage. I have seen this where a victim of domestic abuse has felt let down by the system and the ensuing anger has manifested into an awareness campaign that consists of aggressively attacking someone with different views to the point where they themselves become abusive and then justify their actions by using their victimhood. I definitely agree with you that toxic beliefs should not be allowed to filter into the training of professionals and that any training should ensure objectivity.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        To c.c.c., I am glad you understand coercive control so well and thank you again for your comments.
        I think in most cases ,coercive control is part of a power battle between parents. Dad will exercise his strength and guile and Mum will engage in her own ways ( mainly verbal ) but equally with the intent of suppressing her partner.
        When exercising his strength and guile by lying ,denying and twisting the truth the man is guilty of criminal behaviour which comes from moral badness.
        From one man to yourself and Sam, it is my opinion that these power battles should not be happening at all. I think a man should be pre-programmed as a child to accept that women rule in the home. All issues such as ‘rules of the house’ to be decided by both but day-to-day running of the house should be led by the mother. Grandmother and aunties to be respected also.
        In my book ( perhaps dated) a man should not sit down with women and engage in quibbles and general home issues with their wives or a bunch of women. He should leave it to them unless asked for his view on a serious issue.
        On really big issues ,perhaps a man could have the final say.
        I think that is how households should be run. Petty quibbles and constant arguing about trivial issues lead to disaster in the long run.
        Argument between husband and wife is morally wrong.

        Reply
  4. Angelo Granda

    Unfortunately,mothers and fathers may eventually come together to work effectively but not necessarily within time-scales relevant to the child/children involved. Thus a Court has to make decisions and order them to do so.
    The parties in dispute come from opposite ends ( male. v. female ) thus are highly unlikely ever to come together on their viewpoints.
    A court has to make the decision ,as i said, and force them to hold to the final decision made. Just as a divorce court does.
    It has to be a real court able to make a just decision. For a court to be real and for justice to be real , the hearings must be open to the Public because convention rules are that justice must be seen to be done.
    In a real court (as opposed to a professional tribunal ) it is not usual for far-reaching decisions to be made based on the opinions, suspicions and usually biased and diametrically opposed viewpoints of the parties involved and it is not usual to hold hearings in private. That means that justice isn’t seen to be done and that Judges are bound to have to make evaluations of the respective parties and prefer the evidence of one to the other. The Family Court’s discretion indeed the integrity of the Judge can later be called into question by complainants ad infinitum. How can that be conducive to justice particularly any child involved?

    A real court is completely open to the Public, hears cases on an impartial investigation of facts made according to legal guidelines, no strict time limits,no limits on the number and type of witness allowed to testify,valid physical forensic evidence and achieving best evidence interviews gathered by Police teams , also on signed and witnessed affidavits ,statements etc. That is real evidence likely to produce just decisions not wrong ones. In a real court ,it is only afterwards at the disposition stage that expert assessments ,professional opinions etc. are taken into account.
    So, in my opinion , if the Family Court is to continue administering justice in serious cases like the one outlined above ( which involves serious allegations of abuse) , it has to change its modus operandi radically and move more into sync. with the methods followed in higher courts. For example, guidelines and safeguards must be adhered to scrupulously. If they are not, there will always be a reasonable element of doubt as to the validity of the Bof P.

    The writer of the above post has gone into detail and bears me out that radical changes are needed. We cannot fudge the issue forever.
    I will be interested to hear whether she made allegations to the Police which they declined to investigate.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      “The parties in dispute come from opposite ends ( male. v. female )…” do same sex couples not have disputes?

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        I shall step away from that one .
        Violence and controlling behaviour against women by their male partners is a problem,of course, and when Mums allege it has happened,it is of no help to anyone when it is not investigated fully . She will allege it and he will deny it. A proper Police investigation is essential early on ( based on facts).
        If the dv can be proven,it should be proven before family proceedings begin.The blame for the situation should be allocated to the offender and reformatory action taken by the criminal court. It can impose orders such as probation, community work,Asbo’s etc. and ,in dire cases ,he may even be gaoled. The Court can also order him not to go near Mum or the children if it feels that necessary.
        At present ,the civil courts cannot enforce reform upon him. Can we change the civil courts and grant them the power to impose effective orders? Unless the situation is very,very dire, removing children is abusive and only makes the situation worse but the LA seem to prefer that extreme course, for whatever reason.

        Can we also consider Public Law cases? One party ( the LA) often commits what is tantamount to an act of violence against a family AND subjects parents to coercive control from the outset of a case. Its agents ( the CS ) do not follow correct procedures and legal guidelines and cause immense trauma to children and parents.
        An full investigation of facts is essential early on ( based on correct procedures).
        If the malpractice can be proven,it should be proven before family proceedings begin.The blame for the situation should be allocated to the offenders and reformatory action taken by the Magistrates or the DJ at the county court. The CS should be accountable and it should be possible for the civil court to mend the situation.For example, if children have been removed without due procedure,they should be returned home instantly before the assessment procedures begin. Can we give the family court the power to deal with the CS effectively and make them obey orders?
        Mediation ,other practices and correct procedures are great when the authorities comply but useless if they don’t.

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          To all readers. Regarding mediation can i make the following point.
          CP professionals should take lessons from others who are regularly involved in successful family mediation work .
          As we all know, many vulnerable families live in rented council accommodation. Housing Associations have dedicated officers who actively engage with the kind of mediation which is proposed and the system should study their practices.It is worth mentioning that these people are NOT social workers in name ( they are helpful and friendly) as a consequence of which families tend to be much more cooperative as a starting point. They do not oppress and their working practices are supportive not authoritiative. E.g. if rows occur and if dv is suspected ,they have a way of making families accept it and will put them in contact with all sorts of agencies such as Community Police . These Community Police are not actual Police officers but will help the situation and are a link to real Police if necessary but not before. The housing officers appear to be trained to put a cap on dysfunctional family and community situations and they seem to be experienced in dealing with children and their problems. They are helpful not destructive . They conduct social work in a way which is not over the top and not based on fear.They have certain powers granted to them but they do not exceed them.They do not usually overreact to a situation as the CS sometimes does and unless a family situation is very ,very dire, they will not go for the ultimate santion of eviction.
          Can we get one in to the discussions and tap their brains?
          All comments welcome.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            It may be useful for you to know that SW work closely with housing and PCSOs. LAs have a ‘troubled families’ team (name varies but was funded by central government post riots which undertakes a similar role but on broader scale than the remit of those agencies.

  5. Angelo Granda

    That is very helpful ,Helen, and very useful for me to know. If SW’s want information about ‘mediation’ and how it can work,they should contact the National Organisation of Housing Associations (if there is one) and ask them for an outline of its working model when it comes to mediation etc. and solving family and community problems.
    The CS may then be able to take on board ideas and make effective changes to its own approach and set-up. We need positive action towards change and that might get things started.
    I think their general approach ( and that of the Community Police Officers) is to isolate both parties to a dispute and ask them to define what it is they want to achieve for their family. Why do they think things are not going well? Most families want a happy life and they want to care for their children well and they want work ,access to services ( including MH services) and they want to be protected by the Police from law-breaking and criminal or abusive family members.Neither do they want alcohol or drug addiction in their lives.
    The mediator puts them in touch with various help agencies ,tell them what help is available , how engaging with those agencies ( they make it easy to contact them) will achieve what they want. Sometimes they can even get a parent a job.
    They don’t go in threatening sanctions and ordering families to comply with oppressive commands ( e.g. father is a risk thus must leave home immediately). They do not threaten to take children for adoption and they have procedures which they follow. If they see criminal actions ,like domestic violence is occurring, they will help a mother gather evidence ( make notes of times,dates etc) and prepare a case for a Police investigation of the facts.
    One thing a housing officer should not do is make a referral to the CS without going through all these procedures first. Definitely,SW’s should consult extensively with parents first and make considerable efforts at mediation before calling round to the home with five Police Officers having instigated an S47 enquiry in secret with the immediate intention of removing children without any form of court order.
    That is oppression,inhumanity and cruelty to children.
    I hope Helen, you appreciate the point i made that ordinary,vulnerable families tend to work more positively with the Housing Officer mediators for the simple reason that they are not SW’s in name and do not have such extreme powers.
    To be positive,therefore , can you agree that there is some sense in suggestions that the CS re-organises and changes its name to Family Support or something similar. Public trust in the CS is sadly almost non-existent and it has to be addressed.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      I wasn’t asking about mediation generally Angelo, but thank you anyway. I was asking about how Victoria Teggin envisaged it being used in CP, because that seems to differ from my existing guidance. Mediation is used in SW, but it isn’t used in DV cases for example.

      What you are suggesting about the housing officer not referring to CS is that they don’t report safeguarding concerns until they have done all of their work and seen that it doesn’t work. Apart from anything else, other agencies would not be interested in taking on that level of responsibility for risk.

      LAs do have family support teams already. The focus of this blog is on CP, that doesn’t mean it is the only area of social work that exists.

      Of course SW should involve families, but S47 investigations are a response to an immediate risk.

      Reply
      1. Sam

        With regard to mediation I’m just summarising from the handout. The mediator is neutral and the process is confidential, so what is said in the room stays there and can not be used in legal proceedings. The mediator being neutral tips the balance of power and levels it between the participants making it a safer place for honest discussion. All had a chance to say what needed to be said even if it was a peripheral issue , the example given is a SW not returning phone calls , which may seem minor to SW but major to a parent and is an obstacle to the working relationship.The purpose of most mediation was to look to the future and find solutions. Anyone seen as relevant such as foster carers could be included. Victoria Teggin also quotes the architects of the approach “It brings new process values that have the power to transform the culture of child welfare generally”

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          Thanks for your summary of Victoria’s handout,Sam.
          The approach indeed will have the power to transform the culture of child welfare and it is certainly constructive.
          I want to be constructive too and i don’t want to pour cold water over any constructive ideas , however, i have already commented that mediation ,other practices and correct procedures are great when the authorities comply but useless if they don’t.
          Where would mediation all end?
          I think we should be slightly more radical and make the CS change its organisation and set-up. They should be retrained and granted complete independence from the LA’s.

          Is it not true that CS Social Workers are already intended to be independent,neutral mediators standing between families and the other CP professionals? They are supposed to be the ones doing the mediating ,aren’t they? If they were taught new process values and stuck to them, would that not be a better approach?

          As far as i can see, the best thing achieved by a new mediation service would be that the SW’s would no longer be able to allege falsely that parents will not acknowledge concerns ,cooperate with them and show a willingness to change ( when the opposite is the case). The parental advocates could give ev idence about that.

          As you know,some weeks ago we were discussing the possibility of involving a barrister to carry out mediation duties and keeping check on procedure from the outset and that remains a possibility. Actually, the Conference chair and/or IRO are supposed to carry out that task but i think it is generally accepted they are not strictly neutral.

          All comments welcome.

          Reply
          1. Sam

            For me mediation in a different setting worked , as it took the conflict out of the situation. Plus all parties can actually emerge from the process having had their say AND been listened to. SW know the system is failing , unfortunately whilst parents become defensive so do they rather than be honest about the failings. So nothing much gets achieved as emotions escalate. Mediation would give SW the safe space to admit the systems failings as well. That’s my take on it anyway. I would always be willing to try mediation before a court process.

        1. helensparkles

          It isn’t CS guidance I am referring to, it is CAFCASS’s, & not sure there is any mention in medication in statute?

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            Sorry for the confusion ,helen,caused by my link and comment not being in order. It was meant to follow yours about S47 enquiries being a response to ‘risk’.
            No mention of CAFFCASS.

  6. Sam

    I recently recieved an answer to a FOI request sent to the MOJ , it was answered by the Judicial Training College. I thought it may be of interest as it is relevent to the original article. Here is part of it:

    “All three topics outlined in your request are covered under “family law training”. It is
    also worth noting that most of those judiciary who sit in family law cases will also sit
    in other jurisdictions and so may receive training in these topics by other routes as
    well.
    A) Equality and diversity is now part of the “social context” training that is
    envisaged by the Judicial College Strategy which states that Judicial training has
    three elements:
    (1) Substantive law, evidence and procedure and, where
    appropriate, expertise in other subjects;
    2) The acquisition and improvement of judicial skills including,
    where appropriate, leadership and management skills;
    (3) The social context within which judging occurs.
    ‘Social context’ includes diversity and equality and these will be integral to the
    College’s training programmes. For example, they must relate to people from a
    variety of backgrounds with different capacities, needs and expectations. You can
    see the full strategy at: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about-thejudiciary/training-support/judicial-college/judicial-college-strategy-2015-2017/
    B) Domestic Violence has had comprehensive training coverage for many years.
    Family Court judges have to be first authorised and will attend an induction
    course provided by the Judicial College before they sit. The topic arises within the
    (compulsory) induction training. Continuation training, which again will usually
    contain a domestic abuse element, is provided and judges will attend this on a
    minimum cycle of every three years. A similar arrangement exists for both the
    Magistrates and the Legal Advisers who sit in the Family Court. All magistrates
    are required to undertake domestic violence training when they first sit (in the

    Adult Court) which means that this training has already been undertaken before
    being authorised to sit in the Family Court.
    C) Mental Health issues also feature in Family Court training. For example, they
    have recently considered learning disability, the capacity to conduct litigation
    and post natal mother and baby psychiatric units.
    The Judicial College produces an Equal Treatment Bench Book which provides
    information on a range of equality and diversity issues (including mental health) to
    support judges to treat all those who appear before them in an equal manner. The
    Bench Book also includes a section on the Equality act 2010 and is publicly available
    at: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/equal-treatment-bench-book/
    The Judicial Course Directors (members of the Judiciary) decide who is best placed to
    provide information or expertise to the judiciary. Any speaker or outside body who is
    invited to address a judicial training seminar does so only under judicial direction in
    order to protect judicial independence.
    Disclosure Log
    You can also view information that the Ministry of Justice has disclosed in response
    to previous Freedom of Information requests. Responses are anonymised and
    published on our on-line disclosure log which can be found on the MoJ website:
    http://www.justice.gov.uk/information-access-rights/foi-requests/latest-mojdisclosure-log
    The published information is categorised by subject area and in alphabetical order.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Thanks for sharing the information ,Sam.
      Generally, the willingness of Helen to discuss changes to frontline practices on this forum is positive. Various suggestions were advanced at the conference and we all look forward to progress being made in social work and soon. The department has to amend its practices ,appears to acknowledge Public concern and is willing to change.

      Let them get on with it is my attitude. However , to me ,it is more crucial to justice that radical changes are made to frontline practices and Family Courts by the Judiciary. The problem is not so much LA malpractice ,that can be stopped but currently, even when parents identify abuses of procedure, point to false evidence and even when they cooperate with the system and engage to the best of their ability, lawyers fail them. The Court system does not work and standards must be raised.
      Do lawyers accept this fully or not? I do not think transparency in the form they currently envisage will solve all the problems we have. Changes must go further to eliminate all possibilities of system abuse. Even after the social work system has improved, there will still be cases where dishonest SW’s give false evidence. Training of Judges is a major issue. They should not allow so much latitude for procedural lapses. Parents should make a big issue in Court about them and it is the task of their lawyers to do it for them.

      It has been noticed by the CPR that not many SW’s comment. However some do and we are grateful to Helen for her time and contributions. I would like to make the point that not many Children’s Legal Panel solicitors appear to come on identifying themselves and commenting either. I wonder if their management’s discourage them from doing so.

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        Yes I agree. Helen is to be praised for her willingness to continue commenting and the explanations she has given about how she operates. I am very appreciative of that, even if I don’t always accept what she says, or get irritated! This is probably a good sign – one of my favourite quotes is from Gertrude Stein (I think?) – The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off.

        Reply
        1. HelenSparkles

          “Remember, the truth will set you free, but at first it may annoy the daylights out of you.” Is Joe Klaas about the 12 step programme, Gloria Steinem misquoted it as “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” So no Gertrude.

          Reply
    2. Sam

      The article echo’s previous pleas I have made regarding understanding in depth from the judiciary regarding domestic violence as it is present in so many public law cases alongside addiction and learning difficulties. All issues that actually are extremely difficult to judge without personal experience. I am going to risk the wrath of Sarah, and mention a certain programme that goes out on Radio 4 at 7pm and has an omnibus on Sunday morning. I dare not mention it by name or she will probably lump me together with Ian Josephs and ban me forever. Since that programme has covered a DV storyline I am aware that many peoples eyes have been opened to the reality of the process by which a woman becomes a victim and how difficult it is to initially speak out and then be heard. i have had a number of interesting conversations with people who would not have believed that type of woman would be a victim.
      Just as another example would a judge be aware that a significant minority of alcoholics tend to be high achievers and perfectionists. So for instance , if they had not got to the bottom of their addictive journey their home is very likely to be immaculate, which would look fabulous on an assessment but the reality is any children living in that household would have anxiety problems from being worried if anything was out of place.
      “Annie” from Safeguarding Survivor has demonstrated how a personal story teaches so much more than theory and in this crucial areas, mentioned above I really do feel judges would learn so much more and be more sensitive to the issues involved if they actually used “real” people in training.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Sam , i think we must be absolutely honest and not quite so hopeful and naive.
        The kind of professional who inflicts miscarriages of justice, inhumanity and cruelty upon children and parents are doing just that. They are contravening article 3 rights( torture and degradation) .They want to victimise a Mum who is vulnerable and capitalise on it not help her. They contravene article 6 rights and mispresent information to their advantage , saying you cannot be treated in time-scales and their evidence is not impartial . They do not want you to have a fair trial. Let us not pretend they do. Article 8 rights, no one can convince me that permanent liquidation of a family is proportionate to the risk of future harm owing to a mother having previously been a victim of dv. I am not certain but i think,off-hand article 10 is about access to justice. The system does seem to conspire not to allow a parent access to any justice at all. Appeals virtually impossible to get permission for not only because of the legal-funding issue but because once a miscarriage occurs , it is so difficult to get representation. How many solicitors did you contact before you finally got one to look at your bundle ? Ten,Twenty? When you do get one,they will only look at the final judgment and go from that. Then there is article 14. Discrimination. MH victims are discriminated against.
        Really ,coercive control is the last of your problems when you put it into perspective with these other inhumanities. You can expect it. Why should a Court which lacks so much consideration towards human rights suddenly start to think about keeping you isolated in the court ante-room from the LA’s golden boy?
        I’ll tell you how much some family court judges and lawyers care about MH problems should I ? They have no empathy with it at all! One woman i know was so stressed out by the loss of her children and witnessing their suffering in LA care that she declined to go into the box and give oral testimony. She felt she would have broken down under questioning. As soon as they heard this, the LA lawyers immediately let it be known that they would be demanding that the Judge take negative inferences from it. The Judge sent out a message to her that she would be doing so and so she did. That is female to female understanding for you. Do you think any MH appreciation training affected that decision?
        As regards Social work assessments and theories are concerned, it seems the height of insensitivity to suggest that victims are passing through the Kübler-Ross curve ( more like the Kubla Khan descending curve into oblivion). Victims are not grieving, they are suffering far worse than that and it will not pass after 5 years ,it lasts for life.
        All these theories do is perform self-catharctic favours to the perpetrators of the inhumanity,to be honest. The very sight of their victims disgusts them and they would prefer it if they would simply disappear into a self-dug hole out of their sight. That is the impression i get. Any natural display of emotion ( such as tears or shaking with nerves) will be scribbled down in notebooks and used against a victim. No empathy there and none intended.Everything used to their own advantage. Need i go on.
        Sorry for this long screed because the truth will annoy the daylights out of the professionals .
        We can but hope that the mediation ,advocacy and transparency changes the system for future cases you are involved in Sam and CCC.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          “As regards Social work assessments and theories are concerned, it seems the height of insensitivity to suggest that victims are passing through the Kübler-Ross curve ( more like the Kubla Khan descending curve into oblivion). Victims are not grieving, they are suffering far worse than that and it will not pass after 5 years ,it lasts for life.”
          If you just look at the loss curve it does appear simplistic, the research and theory base is not. But my comment about it is much more about the need for professionals to understand the grief and trauma parents are experiencing a well as the way they might behave as a result.

          “All these theories do is perform self-catharctic favours to the perpetrators of the inhumanit, to be honest.” Perhaps you would like to tell us which theories and I can help you with why they are important? Or do you discount human psychology etc. generally?

          As you’ve said before Angelo, you wouldn’t dispute the medical knowledge base from a doctor so why dispute the social work knowledge base? It is just as evidence based and testable.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            I did not dispute the social work knowledge base, i simply dispute the way it is applied by some SW’s.
            They do not apply the theories at all unless it supports their litigation and raises doubts about a parent.
            I am sure the Kubler-Ross grief cycle is sound psychologically speaking but how can it be applied to a parent who is suffering not from grief but from ongoing mental torture ,degradation and discrimination as a result of LA policies?
            Same as our friend Brene ,who writes good books ,is well-read by the Public apparently and whose work is sound and well-tested. The SW’s apply it to explain away the truth when faced with it by a parent saying they are likely to be inventing a false narrative. Yet they never apply it and admit they may have invented one themselves and face the truth.
            Social work theory may be used at the disposition stage of a case after a final decision has been made ( in the same way psychological reports,probation reports and assessments come into play before sentencing in a criminal case) but should not be entered into proceedings before because cases should be heard on facts alone. Otherwise , MH problems which may have arisen because of the LA’s own inhumane actions to children and parents are used in a discriminatory fashion. Okay in some cases but not in serious ones.
            Have the Courts decided yet whether the Kubler-Ross cycle is a linear process or an exponential curve? Or can the experts interpret the theory as they see fit?

          2. HelenSparkles

            I am not sure if courts are aware of Kubler Ross, you’d have to ask them, but it is not linear and that would be clear if you just looked up the info on the curve.

            I would reiterate that my comment about it is much more about the need for professionals to understand the grief and trauma parents are experiencing a well as the way they might behave as a result.

        2. Sam

          I do agree that the effect is for life. I see this from a lady I know whose child was taken away over fifty years ago. It has of course had a similar impact on the child.
          If anyone has any doubt at all about the parting of a mother from a child they should watch the bitter sweet film Philomena.
          Parents DO NOT just move on, it is impossible, to forget a child. Just as children cannot dismiss parents, even if they are told lies about them order to severe the connection.
          There has to be transparency in courts. What happened in my case, and others, would not have happened in an open court with a decent journalist present.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            It is true that the impact is for life, which is why it is even more sad that parents don’t make changes when they need to.

            50 years ago we lived in a world when children were removed from unmarried mothers etc. one I would not wish to return to.

      2. Angelo Granda

        If you do manage to get your children back like Annie, the handover will probably be in a car-park!

        Reply
      3. Sarah

        Sorry Sam. I am a patient woman but I have clear boundaries. I can put up with Ian ranting, but this kind of unashamed Archers propaganda is a step too far. I am afraid I will simply delete any further attempts to promote this dreadful programme.

        BUT all joking aside – I think it is very interesting how uncomfortable and angry that story line made a lot of people…

        Reply
        1. Sam

          I promise not to mention it again your excellency ( touching non existent forelock) Think I might have got mixed up with a ferrero rocher advert ,might have got away with it this time, fingers crossed

          Reply
          1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            You have grovelled sufficiently to appease me.
            On this occasion.
            But don’t let it happen again.

  7. Angelo Granda

    I like that quote ,Sarah.
    To put myself in Helen’s shoes for a moment, can i apologise to her for praising her contributions so often. I imagine it is irritating for her.
    Indeed , if any commentator wants to embarrass me and drive me away from the forum, all you have to do is praise me and agree with what i say. Agree ,yes certainly but praise and thank me ,no thank you!
    So i shall cut the praise and thanks down Helen.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Sam, as a matter of interest ,can stress,trauma and any other MH problems cause a woman to show nervous symptoms like ‘ leaking’, walking unsteadily, colliding with cupboard doors , slurring words and irregular speech? And to what extent will the monthly menstrual cycle exacerbate the problems?

      I think these are clear symptoms of traumatic stress caused by fear of dv, fear for children etc. and i wonder if you can confirm my belief.

      Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          Thanks,Helen , i have seen medical evidence from a psychologist about it.
          I am interested in the view of a victim and also interested how those symptoms would be viewed by Social Workers and a family court. I was starting by asking Sam.

          Reply
          1. Angelo Granda

            CCC has already described symptoms well in her post and i was wondering if Sam can confirm it. I am not asking for a professional ,qualified view just your own, Sam but if you don’t feel able to answer,by all means say so.

      1. helensparkles

        It’s not hard to find the indictors/symptoms of PTSD online but none of those feature, doesn’t mean they don’t exist, you’d need a medic to tell you that. Anecdotal experience won’t be of huge value, you need an evidence base for consideration by SW and the court. On their own they read as intoxication, hypoglycaemia or a stroke.

        Reply
  8. Sam

    Angelo

    I can’t say I have ever come across anything you describe. Trauma normally causes triggers eg if you see someone similar to your abuser you react. It also can cause anxiety and/or depression. Helen is right you need a trained medic

    Reply
  9. Angelo Granda

    Thanks,Sam and Helen. If trauma can cause depression,that is interesting because depression can affect voice control, affect speech,cause listlessness,fatigue,unsteadiness of gait and all sorts of symptoms. Also it is interesting that symptoms can be triggered by seeing the abuser again .In other words just being close to him or her or someone similar or to experience similar abusive conditions and trauma will trigger them,i assume. I think also traumatic stress or any stress can cause tears and even cause one to wet oneself etc.
    Whether pre-menstrual stress will exacerbate the various symptoms,i am not sure, but i suppose it is possible.

    Reply
  10. Angelo Granda

    Sam, i already have seen opinions of trained medics and whilst it is helpful ,it is complicated,of course plus there is an old saying that a little medical knowledge can be dangerous which is why i am asking for your experiences.
    Rightly or wrongly , i believe that great harm is suffered by children who have the trauma ( removal from mum and brothers,sisters,father etc. ) imposed upon them by the system . When claiming to want to protect children from the risk of emotional harm, the authorities actually make it certain to occur when they take children into care. We know the LAW says removal should only be as a very last resort when nothing else will do but SW’s seem unable to take it in. They are convinced they are doing good .
    The children develop stress syndromes, symptoms of depression ( bed-wetting, polar disorders,self-harming and other behavioural difficulties also increased learning difficulties ( if they had them in the first place). They can also develop other physiological problems such as epilepsy due to extreme emotional disturbance suffered ,speech and language disorder due to disorientation . They often develop eating disorders and their growth can be stunted.They look physically ill and unhappy. This is why i say lawyers should always see the children for themselves.Also the drugs which are used on children ( all done without consultation with the parents) can lead to problems,side effects and with older girls menstrual pain and problems,gender diosorientation of all kinds especially when they are given contraceptive drugs ( unknown to themselves and parents).
    It is not easy for a father to give an opinion on these things but one tries to understand and my common sense tells me that when a girl gets to a certain age she will begin to develop natural desires and feelings including maternal instincts. All this will be difficult to express in the ‘prison’ of a special needs residential care home. They miss out on so much when not in a family setting. They are suffering in care.

    I suggest more research should be done into this.Currently the only response we get from cp professionals is that the problems stem from abuse suffered at the hands of parents.They say this even when children haven’t suffered abuse at home. Absolute self-catharctic rubbish!
    Specialist medical and/or psychological assessments are called for before welfare decisions are taken by family courts not only in applications for a care-order but in all applications for discharge of a care order.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      There is research and it is known that being separated from your family of origin causes trauma. All the more reason for families not to harm their children?

      That the state doesn’t make a great parent is also known because the outcomes of children in care are not great, they are over represented in all the cohorts you would prefer them not to be, which is why there is adoption. Children do better in adoptive than fostering placements. The antecedents to children being placed with any kind of carer affect those outcomes. A child who is very traumatised by their home environment will not necessarily have the resilience to recover.

      “All this will be difficult to express in the ‘prison’ of a special needs residential care home.” There are very few of these.

      Most of the children I have seen in care have been transformed by having people who love and care for them and meet their needs. It is very sad that their parents couldn’t do this.

      The symptoms you describe are not the indicators of depression.

      PMT is not stressful at all for most women! There are rare cases of a disorder when it is.

      Reply
      1. Sam

        Helen I could not disagree more about PMS. It is not a made up phenomenon, it’s interesting that you dismiss it as woman who have never experienced the symptoms are often the harshest critics . Ditto Menopause. It appears about 30% of woman have moderate to severe symptoms http://www.pms.org.uk/about/aboutus2

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          As a woman? Really? – That would imply I would have a bias towards my own gender? My gender has nothing to do with anything. You are talking about a diagnosable condition. I didn’t say it was made up or dismiss and there are extreme versions but (using your link) only 5 – 8% of women experience severe PMS. That is not common. I also do not think it would impact upon PTSD in the way you suggest (but you would need a doctor for that). You are painting a picture of a woman crazed with hormones and trauma behaving in a particular way, I have no idea what you are intending to explore but I’d leave the PMS out of it.

          Reply
  11. Angelo Granda

    May i add that at the conference, a young woman stood up during the question and answering session. She appeared to be very nervous and her voice was a little unsteady due to nerves etc. at standing up and speaking to professionals. She was an ordinary mother and her question was along the lines of what can we do about children in care and stop the suffering etc. She was clearly emotional and very sincere. She wanted to make her point and wanted an answer of some sort. Any way she must have done something wrong because her question was skipped over completely ,no reply was given at all and the convener went straight to the next question. Hers was the only question not answered and i feel she was discriminated against owing to her display of nerves.
    Of course, this happens with professionals regularly in court. I am a human being and i really felt for the young woman and what appeared to be disrespect to her.
    Unfortunately, this story has a sad ending for me because i saw her go into the tea-room and i went in too hoping to open a conversation with her. I said hello and said i was interested in her question. Well i can only think she was a victim of domestic abuse because she started to tremble ,clench her teeth ( as described by CCC when in a stressful situation) ,in fact she turned away seemingly unable to face me. I can only think she saw in me similarities to her abuser. What more can i say except that anecdotes can tell us a lot and research can be based on them. `

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      Research cannot be based on anecdotes and they tell you about one person’s experience. This one tells you about your experience of that person, not theirs. You have absolutely no idea if she experienced DV or you reminded her of her abuser, that is supposition.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        QUOTE : You have absolutely no idea if she experienced DV or you reminded her of her abuser, that is supposition : UNQUOTE

        As usual,you are right ,Helen, it was possibly a wrong supposition. Perhaps i was being too benevolent to professionals. I could easily have supposed that she hadn’t suffered from dv . It is equally possible that she had suffered inhumanity and abuse by the authorities and was mistaking me for a SW or another cp professional.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          Or anything really. Professionals don’t need your benevolence, it is absolutely clear all over this blog what you think about them which is why it means exactly nothing if you praise or thank me. I am not prepared to be the ‘good’ social worker, I am proud to be part of my profession, and most of the parents I work with know exactly what I do to help them. The one that doesn’t, obviously I can’t really tell you about them, but they need to blame me.

          Reply
      2. Angelo Granda

        All my suppositions about the lady i mentioned might be wrong ,of course,in which case if she happens to be a reader of these comments , i hope she will forgive me.

        Reply
    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I don’t accept we ‘skipped over’ anyone’s comment or question.
      We will have to listen to the podcast when its on the TP website.
      As the whole point of the day was to listen to and engage with others, I just don’t accept that anyone was deliberately ‘ignored’ in the way you suggest.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        I don’t think it was deliberately ignore either ,Sarah. Time was running short and it was a sudden change of topic ( which i think meant a lot to the questioner ) Skipped may not be the right word , but there was no reply. Neither was there any expectation or imperative that all questions must be answered.
        I couldn’t help mentioning it because in court the same sort of questions are always sidestepped as indeed are most valid complaints by parents particularly if the comments are put in an unprofessional manner.In other words ,they are not listened to. Out of court at reviews etc.,it is even worse.Another argument in favour of advocacy (mediation)

        Reply
  12. Sam

    I do remember the lady’s question,though I think it was more of a comment than a question. It was reasonable asking about what should be done about the children currently in care as the focus was on changes in the future. Realistically I suppose the answer is nothing as you can’t change the past, however I personally can imagine a number of civil claims may arise in the future if children fully understand what happened in their cases. I certainly hope that my children sue the LA .
    I agree Angelo children in care do self harm,bed wet etc but so do many in dysfunctional families . The question must be did they do it before coming into care ? Surely if not the care is then causing them harm, rather than protecting them.Just another thought medication can cause some of the symptoms you have described.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Sam, the question of children suffering in care was bypassed by professionals at the conference and i know for certain that the same questions are dodged by professionals in court sessions. It is as if the authorities do not want to face up to the truth and to all the harm they do to children. In court if the parents raise issues of fact concerning their children and LA care, they are either accused of MH problems or it is assumed they are inventing self-defensive narratives etc.

      In one case the question of whether any abuse had been suffered by children at home and whether symtoms had shown before removal was raised by parents and their lawyers asked the questions in the instruction letter to the psychological and educational experts. The question never got answered. Why not? The Guardian omitted it from the letter actually sent to the expert assessors. She knew the truth would not help the LA case.It was pointed out by the parent’s barrister at their request ( nobody else had noticed it) to the Judge who found a way round it and the barrister did not press the point ( no doubt due to time limits). Anyway by then too many decisions had already been taken by professionals before the hearing and the judge would not want to rock the boat.
      Next question,how can we raise the standards in the family courts?

      Reply
      1. helensparkles

        Angelo, I think you really need to read the research on children in care. There is plenty of it, it isn’t overlooked, and the balance is always how damaging is home vs. substitute care for children.

        It doesn’t seem to me that this was the subject of the conference, it is the subject of a lot of other conferences attended by SW and other professionals, parents can attend those too.

        Reply
  13. Sam

    Is that because children in care MAY be fed a false story about how they end up in care AND they lack opportunities to accessible legal advice. Who is going to tell children wrongly adopted ,through unreliable medical evidence ,that they could have been brought up by their parents?
    The truth about a child’s background is so important, it helps form identity. I am determined that I will leave a paper trail so that in future my children will have understanding of the real reason why we were parted not some version that suits other people .

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      Most children in care go home anyway.
      Children in foster care have access to free legal advice via the LA.
      There is access to records.
      I don’t your version or other people’s but both are on the file.

      Reply
    2. Angelo Granda

      Sam, I hope you don’t mind me asking questions but i am interested in your comment on paper trails. After the final hearing, did you get a copy of the Court bundle and judgment to use in future applications for discharge etc?
      The reason i ask is because some parents don’t and half of the documents aren’t in it e.g. counsel’s submissions for and against them,medical reports,etc.etc.
      Did you get everything or just part of the bundle?

      Reply
      1. Sam

        I had the bundle however at one point I had a solicitor who did not even want to give me that due to what she called ‘confidentiality’ . I suppose some parents may let others read it ,I personally think it is essential that a parents have it if they can understand it.

        Reply
        1. Angelo Granda

          From what i have seen the ‘court bundle’ in respect of previous proceedings ( the care proceedings) which are called for when discharge is applied is not complete. It appears to be a ‘sanitised’ one.Many documents missing.Some statements included .Others not.

          Reply
  14. Sam

    Helen So because most children in care go home anyway It does not matter that they are told the wrong story!! I normally can see the grey but not in this case. Care is not a jolly experience akin to an extended holiday. It marks people for life, for good or Bad and its normally the latter. As you pointed out previously outcomes are appalling, MH,prison etc. My family have been completely screwed by the system and are now being fed a false narrative, which will affect our relationship forever. There is absolutely no middle ground, no happy ending just a family ruined over generations because professionals are not accountable, are badly trained and too busy watching their own backs.

    Reply
    1. HelenSparkles

      I could have responded to your comment but i didn’t. I just made another comment instead about access to information. I absolutely agree that being in care isn’t a breeze & I wish substitute parenting wasn’t necessary for anyone. I also agree that children should know their story.

      The problem for me (& the reason I didn’t respond to your comment) is that I spend a lot of my time talking to children about why they can’t be at home & hearing parents say something completely different. Lying in fact, & blaming the SW, or telling children to say something about their foster carer so they can come home. I didn’t really think any of that was going to get us anywhere but I guess it’s a fuller response.

      I am not saying that is your story & I absolutely think professionals should be accountable.

      Reply
      1. Sam

        I think we will have to agree to differ on one or two points. As you say arguing isn’t going to get us anywhere.

        Reply
    2. HelenSparkles

      Oh & outcomes for children in care aren’t just because there are in care, they are predicated on the antecedents.

      Reply
  15. Angelo Granda

    QUOTE: i don’t disagree at all. But the problem is – and we have had this conversation many times now as well – is how are we going to practically implement this?
    You are suggesting a simply massive expansion in the role of the criminal justice system : UNQUOTE

    Sarah, To return to the subject of fair hearings. The best way to achieve justice in cases like that of CCC is to hear them on facts, then it will be decided at the very first hearing whether or not the husband is guilty of dv or coercive controlling behaviour. If he is that is justice for the complainant. If he is not guilty that is justice for him. If the case is heard on the BofP based on anything other than facts just opposing stories and suspicions,opinions and professional assessments etc. there will be justice for neither of the parties or the children. There might follow 10 or 20 further hearings because neither will accept they are right or wrong.
    Thinking about it , i suggest that when a case is heard on facts alone , then the case is a more suitable one to be heard before a judge alone. Criminal cases are more suited to be heard by one judge who decides the case.Maybe ,in criminal cases there could be a half-way house between magistrates court and crown court which would not need a jury . That would save time and money and the new court would be able to issue heavier sentences than the Magistrates.

    When there aren’t enough facts to prove someone guilty of a charge and the CPS will not prosecute meaning it has to go to a private law civil court case for a dispute to be aired with proof depending on a bofp then justice may be better served if the opposing evidence was judged by a jury of peers with the help of a judge not by a judge alone. The loser would then be less likely to complain afterwards whether it be the mum or the dad. It would be a fairer method , a father would not be able to scream ‘corruption’ nor would Mum UNLESS fair procedure were not followed as in a criminal court. So the civil court will have to raise its standards and stick scrupulously to legal guidelines. If it happened that way ,the court could allot blame to the offender at the first hearing and the case could be ‘disposed’ of at the second by the judge alone. If it was a less serious private law case where no crime were alleged maybe a jury will not be necessary but if that were so, evidence would have to be confined to facts and heard by a judge (possibly on paper) in something akin to a divorce court. No scope for coercive control there,i hope and no need for it anyway.
    Similarly,in Public Law cases at the civil court serious cases to be heard on the bofp to have a jury.All guidelines to be followed scrupulously as in a criminal court. A fair verdict more likely and no scope for cries of corruption. A strict rule to be applied ( to comply with Article 8) that no order imposed will exceed any which can be imposed by a criminal court unless absolutely nothing else will do in very dire cases. Minor cases which do involve a possibility of the permanent removal of children to be heard in a different level of court by one judge (perhaps on paper) on facts alone.
    These are just a few ideas from a parent and they will probably sound daft to a lawyer but please throw them into the fire for discussion. We wouldn’t need thousands more Police or thousands of hours more court time.

    Don’t forget we aren’t trying to please the judiciary or the CP system, we are aiming to restore Public trust in the system and ensure justice.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Sorry about the error.I meant minor Public Law cases which DO NOT involve the possibility of permanent removal to be heard on facts alone before one judge.

      Reply
  16. Angelo Granda

    Obviously, i would never expect these suggestions ever to be taken seriously by anyone ,neither would i expect any suggestions from anyone below the rank of Lord Chief Justice to be when it comes to changing courts about but i am merely suggesting it will not take much imagination for the powers that be to make changes and they would not necessarily cost them a lot. In fact they might save a lot of hearings.

    Reply

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