The importance of challenge in the post truth world

2016 has been a terrible year but perhaps a necessary year. Just as the boil has to burst or be lanced before it can heal, we do need to confront why so many people are so angry and so unhappy and so willing not only to embrace distortions and misrepresentations of what is true, but to help spread them far and wide.

I operate on a small canvass. My interest, knowledge and expertise is around court proceedings when the State wishes to remove a child from a family. But this superficially small area of law and policy encompasses a whole world of human pain and really interesting and necessary discussions about the limits and justifications to State interference with individual liberties.

So I think it is a hugely important topic and worthy of proper discussion. I have tried to do my bit to be part of that; I have organised two multi disciplinary conferences in 2015 and 2016 with the help of the Transparency Project – read about 2015 here. I try to provide clear information on this website and provide a forum for debate. I have learned a lot from those who comment here; my perspectives have shifted and needed to shift.

But what I will continue to refuse to do is accept or promote issues which I know are not true. This seems to attract a lot of negative attention, which in the past few months has increased considerably.  I have had emailed threats directly to my chambers – for the first time ever in December 2016 I went to the police (who were very good indeed).

My dismay has now reached even higher levels. In November a documentary called ‘England’s Stolen Children’ was aired in France. I saw a short press release about it in English and was immediately alarmed. I wrote about that here. 

I then requested an English language version from the producer and I transcribed it here. I was even more alarmed after watching the whole thing. I won’t repeat the lies, distortions and mispresentations I found here, you can read if you are interested, the post on the Transparency Project.

However, instead of trying to engage in discussion about these really serious points, what I got were insults. These are just examples from the comments to the first of my posts on the Transparency Project. I am told things are even worse on Facebook where I am variously accused of being a ‘kiddy fiddler’ or forcing my mother to buy me a car.

So, dear Sarah, if you do not understand what is going on in UK, simply shut up and make deep reserches.

So, I not suprising when illiterate baristers are resuming their ”experiences”. Sorry, Sarah, but when you will began to demonstrate real ability to think and act proffesionally, we can to discus, but at present I can see just very dangerous presentations of UK justice, full of personal illiterate ambitions, who is able to destroy any family in UK. Justice,

I do not understand how people involved in the justice business can support such practices, pocket the legal aid money and defend Mother System for their own comfort. You say “bonkers” ? Yeah… Bonkers are all those professional loosers on the LAs lawyers lists that I have seen, taking no risk and no pride, acting like rats when they should stand for justice. (this from an allegedly ‘award winning’ journalist)

Forced adoption and forced long term foster care should be abolished immediately, so you , Sarah, wlll find some more dignified job rather than defend totally discredited, shameful system which even not allow my son to read his own judgement and UNCRC .

How dishonnest you are, Mrs Phillimore, by quoting me uncorrectly. The sentence is : “You might know that foreign families are even prohibited contacts in their own language! You need to understand that this is something that no journalist from any country has read on the parents’paperwork without wanting to vomit.” It’s a bit different, isn’t it ? So you are a barrister and you transform the facts ? Maybe you did this too many times and you can’t anymore realise if you are doing it again? Is your insulting and panicking style ok in court ? Well it is true that all those bad parents are giving you a living…
But now maybe I understand your point. You hate Ian Josephs who did help loads of family and of course in these cases, no child, no fee.

You also ‘sneered’ because I was not visibly ‘disabled enough’ to suit you!
I don’t believe I have said I support Hemming or Josephs; just that their answers to you raise major issues that I can evidence.
Your accusations of ‘barbed comments’ is exactly what I would expect from an LA solicitor or Barrister!!!!

Time and time again I ask for help understanding where my analysis has failed. I have set out my position in detail here.  Time and time again the response is simply insults and hysterical language.  It might be naive of me to expect differently from those who have obviously gone through very painful and real life experiences. I cannot expect emotional detachment and precise analysis in those circumstances and I hope I have showed how patient I try to be, even in the face of the most disgusting comments and assertions.

But I had hoped rather more from the professionals. One former social worker, Maggie Mellon was interviewed extensively in the documentary and was introduced as a member of the British Association of Social Workers. Clearly, this will give an air of legitimacy to her appearance. I do not provide comment as ‘a Member of the Family Law Bar Association’ – I don’t speak for the members of that organisation and I certainly don’t ask that they legitimise my campaigning activities. I think it would be helpful for BASW to review their policy about how their name is used for the future.

I agreed with much of what Ms Mellon had to say about the impact of poverty on parents and the probably disastrous consequences that will flow from privatisation of any part of child protection services. But I was concerned that she was prepared to be part of such a documentary which relied on demonstrable untruths and offered such uncritical support to Ian Josephs. I asked for her comments. She said ‘you disagree with the programme. Some people disagree with you. Get over it’.

I replied that I could not simply ‘get over’ the promulgation of really serious lies that would not only frighten vulnerable people but scare them away from the very help that could achieve something for them – which seems to be the case for Colin and Clare in the documentary.

I received this response.

Let’s be clear. I am not ‘designated’ by anyone, God or court to do what I do. And  nor do I think I require any such ‘designation’ to challenge what I know and have proved to be really dangerous distortions of truth, made under a false flag of campaigning for human rights.

I think we all have a moral duty, simply as human beings, to strive to identify the truth and then promote it. I am not naive enough to think I have a monopoly on ‘the Truth’ or that my perspective is always and only the ‘right’ one. But if you disagree with me – tell me why. Tell me without insulting my intelligence, my lack of attractiveness, my marital status or my mother. And then we can have a dialogue. And out of that dialogue we might be able to agree on some common ground.

Or not. Frankly, the way 2016 has been going, I’m not holding my breath. But I won’t stop just because I am ordered to do so. I will carry on lighting my candle and I hope others will join me.


Further reading

If you are interested in the debate, I recommend the following websites which both provide clear, accessible information about the family court system and the importance of distinguishing truth from lies. – very good and through debunking of the Satanic Ritual Abuse Hoax fiasco which still rumbles on in some quarters.

The Transparency Project – a registered charity of which I am a proud Trustee.

6 thoughts on “The importance of challenge in the post truth world

  1. Angelo Granda

    Sarah,Thanks for the thoughtful post and for all the good work you sponsor and take a part in.
    As a parent, I can only suggest that you may find things simpler were you to drop any personal expressions of dislike of campaigners on social-media especially in the post-truth world where Facebook and twitter are just a joke to most of us. Remember you are a lawyer paid to fight cases in court not in unprincipled bunfights.
    Are we any closer to achieving transparency than we were this time last year? I hope you don’t mind the suggestion I have made above but surely arguing with all these groups is a waste of time. They have their truths and you have yours. Probably both you will stick to your own post-truths. Lawyers ought to concentrate on the real facts.
    I hope you are right that transparency (if it ever arrives) is the panacea but as I said ages ago, i think you and your colleagues should think more radically.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Thanks for your kind comments. I am sure you are right, that arguing with people on social media achieves little or even nothing. But the alternative seems too horrible to contemplate – that we simply give up and leave the internet as a playground for the neo nazis?
      I think we are a lot closer to achieving transparency than we were last year. These may not seem like considerable gains for those who are wanting something big and radical but for a lawyer who has been working in the system for nearly 20 years, they are pretty radical!

      For e.g. the Transparency Project got its first funding grant to continue its work, which I think has been really useful. We know that transparency isn’t just about publishing stuff – it’s about trying to make things understandable and accessible (which I suppose also motivates much of what I do on social media; I am trying to reach out to wider audience). There is much more discussion and debate (although much of it is not helpful) and I think the issues are moving more into the mainstream.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Sarah, In my opinion , were I to be involved right now with care-proceedings brought against me by a Local Authority, I would want a lawyer who had the ability to argue my individual case like a lion. I would not one who looks at the evidence against me taking the view that any parent who protests innocence and denies and deflects the professional case must inevitably be ‘guilty ‘ and defensive, unable to understand concerns etc. This is what parents are up against especially when their legal representatives are solicitors on the Children’s Legal Panel. They are so used to working with SW’s and procuring children into care on behalf of LA’s that they give these professionals too much credit. The parents soon lose trust in the system especially when advised it is best to go along with untruths and cooperate.
        I am not suggesting for one moment that you don’t act correctly so please don’t think this comment is meant for you personally; it is not.
        Parents are dealing with institutional bad practice and inhumanity. It is next to impossible to pin anything on one individual or allot blame .We face the faults of a system, the establishment, the status quo or whatever we choose to call it.
        Regarding transparency, CS reform and all the rest of it , post-truth and so on: the advice of a simple parent to you is that you recognise the impact of false ideology including the monolithic myth that LA’s remove children from family in ‘their own interests’ are very, very deeply engrained into society. Despite all your efforts, despite the good intentions of the CPR and any progress you have made to date, barristers in general should understand that they have more power in their little fingers to change the institution in Court than in twenty years campaigning on ‘social media’ etc. and I have tried to get it over before.
        The Public perception is that barristers represent the very brightest of our children and we support their education and training in order that they can protect citizens against authoritarianism not so they can work towards injustice. Even when they represent LA’s we expect them to look out for citizens and give priority to natural justice, legal safeguards and truth.
        The Public have very little trust in the systems and institutions and from centuries of experience, we know how difficult it is to change them . There are too many vested interests lined up against us. Sarah herself, I think and certainly the Judge who spoke at CPR CONF 2016 know how far away transparency is in actual practise. The project has become stuck.
        Thus barristers should concentrate on bringing about changes to precedent in Court whenever they get the chance. It will be more effective. Like a lion ,set your teeth ( you have the power) into the slightest lapse on the part of the authorities and don’t let go. After a case, should a parent wish to appeal, lawyers should support applications to the legal-funding commission more readily too, rather than decide tamely there are no grounds for appeal. Don’t allow lower court judges too much discretion.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Working fine so far as I can see. But I am unsure why you are commenting given that you requested that I delete all your other comments on this site? Have you mistaken this for somewhere else?

      1. Carol Bird

        My full account is printed on The Law Society Gazette Article
        Munby Judges should not have to Justify themselves dated 10 March 2017
        And Yes I can report it, It was last heard in OPEN COURT
        Possibly a first

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