Heads You Lose: Tails You Lose
Sarah Phillimore writes: I am grateful for this post from Emma Sutcliffe, part 4 in our series ‘why does everyone hate the family courts’? Emma’s previous post on this topic can be found here.
The family justice system is very much in the public eye at the time of writing on May 15th 2019- 120 MPs have called for an inquiry into how the courts operate and The Victoria Derbyshire programme has hosted two discussions so far. It seems to be promoting the Women’s Aid line that the family courts ‘push contact with abusers at all costs’. I don’t think that is true.
But what I can’t deny is the level of fear, misery and misinformation around the family justice system and the fact that people often come out of it more brutalised than when they went in. What is the problem? How can we fix it? The only way I know how, having very little by way of political or media influence, is to continue to host these kind of discussions in the hope that somehow, some where a seed will be planted that may grow.
I don’t agree with everything that Emma says, I don’t agree the system is ‘set up against women’ . I am also concerned to see a picture painted of two parents – who presumably at one point loved each other enough to have children together – who now treat each other as bitter enemies. I don’t think the family court is responsible for that level of bad feeling, but I accept that as an arena it is the worst place to put frightened or angry people.
However, the point of this post is not to get Emma to agree with me or hound her for being ‘wrong’. The point is to identify where our perceptions differ and what shapes that. Is that divide a product of misunderstanding? Or some deeper ideological differences? Is the perception of parents’ clouded by their pain and misery? Or is my response foggy or jaded because of professional arrogance?
What should be happening here is the entirely sensible requirement when preparing for an adversarial environment, that you develop a theory of the case and you prepare your cross examination around that. A case with no strong narrative arc is messy and uncompelling. If the burden of proof is on you then a lack of focus on your theory of the case may be enough to sink you. What Emma describes here sounds to me like game playing of a much more cynical kind and verging on the unethical. Its not a tactic I ever employ or would ever advise. Once your life is being held up to microscopic examination in a court setting, then playing games should be the very last thing on your mind.
However, this was Emma’s experience. And, as she so powerfully says, no one should ever have to ‘put on a performance’ to persuade a court to analyse the evidence before it and make a decision in the best interests of the child. Our courts should not be a theatre. If there is anything about the system and the people in it that encourages this – it needs to stop.
How does a barrister prepare you to lose your children?
By roughing you over as if you’re a criminal. Family court is vilifying, humiliating and terrifying. It is worse when the narcissist you divorced is your opponent. Because the only person a narcissist loves is themselves and they’re quite prepared to lose whatever it takes in the process so that they don’t lose face. It’s called a ‘scorched earth policy’ and my barrister pummelled me in readiness of every court statement and appearance for the inevitable lies, fury and shouting that accompanies any head to head with someone who would even suggest their own children would be better in the care system than with their own mother.
The barrister who worked for me made me look straight on at the loss of my children and study assiduously both the recommendations of the court and the people who made the recommendations. ‘what’s the sound track in the court?’ He asked when we first met — some 16 hearings in by the point.
‘You are a bad parent’ he told me. Looking directly at me as he delivered a crushing home truth — “because just by even being in family court and having strangers decide how your children are going to play out their childhood you have let them down. In the eyes of the court therefore you are a bad parent”.
Am having got me to a state of despair he then sought to get me ‘judge ready’.
“This is the Anna* we need the judge to see — an exhausted, working mum who has been driven to seek to need the court’s help to deal with an utterly uncooperative parent. We need to mitigate risk to the judge — that you can accept your flaws but still do your best for the children. Let us let the baddest parent show themselves for what they are. Otherwise this just looks to the judge like two very clever people who are adept at arguing whilst their children look on. You need to accept and convey that you are contrite and remorseful that such behaviour has and would cause them emotional harm if it were to continue.”
And with that I had an epiphany.
Like it of not; family court is a game of chess. And the system is set up against women. Children are the sacrificial pawns and to win this game I had to have the agility of the Queen and read the board. The king appears to be the dominant player, but it’s the queen who can contort to whatever move is needed to protect and win the game.
And so, with that in mind I determined to adjust my mindset and moves. I could lose 50 percent of holiday time with my children for a few years until they get wise enough to reject their father’s bullying by themselves or I could dig my heels in, battle the court officers and keep portraying myself as a battling parent too determined to beat my ex than protect my children.
Thanks to that roughing over by the barrister the small lose or ultimate lose strategy was easy to shapeshift into.
Once he knew I understood the games and the rules, the barrister and my solicitor then crafted every statement and every question in every hearing thereafter to play to the soundtrack of the court — hardworking, long suffering caring mother, able to withstand every ludicrous allegation and still demonstrate cooperativity.
And as we walked into the final hearing — the narcissist did what narcissists ultimately do and lost it when he didn’t get exactly what he believed he was entitled to — adoration and dominance.
Judges do not like risk. And they do not like arrogance. They care not for how much money someone has, what car they drive, how well connected they are or if they are dressed in Armani or Primarni. They want to know that you show up, you accept help, you recognise your flaws and vulnerabilities and you put your children first. Game over. I lost the small battle.
The loss was wonderful because it was palatable. And in his summing up the judge adeptly dismissed every taunt, claim and even overuled his own biased officers. Furthermore he praised me for my courage under persistent sniper fire and concluded with words that were music — the music of the court — to my ears and to my children:
‘I cannot be confident that if residency were given to Dad that given the ludicrous allegations Mum has successfully defended Dad would not seek continued punishment of Mum using the children. Further time with dad risks psychological harm to the daughter. And without changes in the environment when a child is 12 they will start to vote with their feet and at this point it is Dad who risks losing the relationship without making changes. Given that the children are articulate, intelligent and clearly gifted, if they goose not to go to a parent’s house when they are 12 the court will not force the contact’.
The 24 months of worry that I would lose my children and my life was lifted during that 40 min judgment.
I had been judged.
My children had been heard and understood and our concerns justified.
There is no greater victory.
The loss that never ends — the loss of a meaningful loving relationships of trust, fairness, unselfishness and courage to give your children what they need — is the ultimate loss. I won the residency order. I won my children’s faith. The only loss I have is respect for their Father. That is the loss that knows no end.
Years later, however, I remain enraged about the performance I had to make to be ‘the exhausted, desperate Mum the judge needs to see’. I resent that my strengths — accuracy, challenging injustice, truthfulness and obstinance — qualities admired as ones of leadership in a man were instructed to be turned down because they are interpreted as non-compliant in a woman. We should speak up when something is not right, when undermining is taking place, when systems, people, Cafcass Officers are corrupt and corruptible. We tell our children to be brave, be bold, be yourself. Then we tell those girls who become women to stop these characteristics and accept the archetypes directed by our own Family Courts and the officials that turn the cogs.
The Cafcass Officer didn’t like my challenges. The psychologist accepted and praised my enquiring mind and described my ex for being fixed and resolute (uncooperative) whilst telling the court I held ‘the key to the resolution of the conflict — by backing down, shutting up, accepting the abuse persistently doled our through gaslighting, stonewalling and intransigence. I could flex and contort to any slight so the abuse could continue unchecked if I wanted residency of my children. Three different judges wanted or saw three different ‘Anna’s’ — one saw a frustrated mum, one only saw a mum with anxiety and hurried me out of his court, one saw why I was ‘challenging’ and that my ability withstand years of abuse and coercive control transacted through my children was attributable to my being bold, brave, myself.
The Barrister did what he had to do to get me the right result for the misogyny of the family court with officers and paid-for experts waiting to point their fingers and say ‘difficult woman, difficult woman’.
Because challenging women challenge them and their infrastructures, assessments and belittling of women.
So I’m here. And I’m ready to fight back for all those women who don’t have my strength or have had their resilience worn away by the family courts. It is time for change.
No. It is best to open the family courts and deal with the problems that we have. Not expect everyone to bow down before the narrative of 'men bad, women good, family courts evil'. How on earth does this help anyone? Make any child safer? https://t.co/VF3xmqEAOd
— Sarah Phillimore (@SVPhillimore) May 16, 2019
A Parent’s View.
QUOTE: No. It is best to open the family courts and deal with the problems that we have. Not expect everyone to bow down before the narrative of ‘men bad, women good, family courts evil’. How on earth does this help anyone? Make any child safer? :UNQUOTE
QUOTE: just by even being in family court and having strangers decide how your children are going to play out their childhood you have let them down : UNQUOTE
QUOTE: Facts are not the truth: just like cells are not an organ. It’s how the cells work together or don’t that determines function. As such facts alone do not present the truth: UNQUOTE
All care proceedings involve failure. often a failure of all four of the following:-
2.Social Workers and other professionals.
4.The Court system.
5.The Local Authority concerned is the party which applies for Court Orders through it’s Director of Social Services with the legal assistance of it’s City or Borough solicitor.
So, we can conclude that when FAMILY COURT care-proceedings are brought either by one parent privately or by a Local Authority publicly, children are failed by all involved. The system has failed.
Please note I refer to Family Court proceedings not criminal court proceedings. If a parent or anyone else has neglected and /or abused children through d.v,sexual deviance ,neglect etc. and a Police investigation reveals there are facts to support a prosecution, the suspect should always be taken to a criminal court for judgment and ‘proportionate’ action . If charges are serious , fairness demands a jury trial in an open court.
Without wishing to patronise Emma, the writer of this post or Sarah, their writings in recent threads have been clear and concise . For example, Emma writes in this one ‘ it is time for change’. I agree on that score and have said the same myself many times. The gist of one of Sarah’s comments in one recent thread is that ‘we cannot take action until we all come to a consensus on the specific changes which need to be made’.
We are all wrestling with a fundamental problem and that is inhumanity.
Fairness and proportionality is essential when judging cases.
When a parent or a Local Authority resort to proceedings in a Family Court , they are asking a Court to endorse and impose a inhumane course of action on which they, the applicants, have already decided . The Family Court is not ‘evil’ but they are asking it to make an inhumane decision which contravenes a child’s human rights by convention as well as those of the respondent party. I suppose they are also asking the S.W’s and the Guardian to do the same. It matters not what the facts are really and it matters not what the medical or other independent professional viewpoints are and ultimately it makes no difference whether a parent is guilty of a crime . It is disproportionate and unfair to ask a FAMILY COURT to impose inhumane measures on children.
In fact, it is wrong for criminal courts to impose inhumane, disproportionate penalties, punishments or sanctions. Generally they don’t .
1.All human beings have a right to life.
2.All human beings have a right to a family life .This includes a right to follow their cultural and religious heritage.
3.No human being should have physical or mental torture imposed upon them nor degradation.
These human rights are not to be interfered with without a fair trial of the natural parent’s rights and responsibilities and so on and so on. Yet the Family Courts are asked to do so.
They are expected to decide on matters which they are not equipped or capable of judging in proportion to their magnitude. The High Court has stated it is unable to unravel cases because of the profusion of uncheckable, highly divergent evidence and vague opinion. Even if the evidence was confined to facts alone, the Court is still being asked to make inhumane judgments following hearings which are unfair in many respects not only the absence of a jury.
So, the problems which we need to change are fundamental. We have to come to a public consensus. We have to set limits. We have to draw strict lines and we have to follow them with absolute determination. It won’t be for the first time. Regarding the right to life, we came to a consensus that capital punishment was inhumane under any circumstances. No court not even a Crown Court will impose it in this day and age. It has been outlawed. Even facts are not always the truth. Even after a jury trial therefore , a Court cannot contravene s1 of the ECHR.
It won’t be the first time I have suggested that strict limits be placed upon the powers of Family Courts. Proportionality demands they should never impose sanctions in excess of those available to the upper courts. The upper Court cannot impose capital punishment and neither can the Family Court. Likewise ,the upper Court will not liquidate a family in contravention of s2. Neither should the Family Court be asked to do so. The same will apply to s3.
( n.b. temporary foster-care or temporary Special Guardianship orders issued on a six-monthly renewable basis don’t constitute liquidation).
These cases are taken to Family Court against the paramount interests of children because of the intractability and disregard of children’s human rights. It makes no difference whether it is a Local Authority or one of the parents, does it? It is wrong to break natural families asunder .
Divorce was made much easier in the 20th Century. A cornerstone of family life, stability for children and parental relationships was removed. This is why parents take their problems to the Family Courts but it is not in their children’s interests even to divorce or separate until they are sixteen years of age. As discussed in parts 1 and 2 of ‘Why do we all hate the Family Courts’ , the solution chosen should be independent mediation and arbitration.
I was ‘shot down ‘ by both male and female professionals previously when I suggested a more humane convention should be set and followed in children’s interests. This should be that , whenever parents are in dispute, children should always but always remain with Mum ( unless she is guilty of a serious criminal offence).
This is not bias, it is realistic. Children need their mothers more than Fathers who will be forced to accept the convention and buckle down to building bridges. When a child reaches sixteen, he or she can choose for themselves.
As a non-professional, I apologise if I am less concise than Emma and Sarah,but I have given my view following on from theirs. I hope other ordinary parents will understand where I am coming from.
All other constructive suggestions for change welcome. Think about fundamental human rights.
Emma Sutcliffe, I would appreciate any comment you may have on my opinion above about a new convention.
‘That whenever parents are in dispute, children should always but always remain with Mum ( unless she is guilty of a serious criminal offence).’ You want to take up the cudgel on behalf of women. I have never been involved in a divorce but I, a man, have been ‘shot down’ for my view before on this resource by a woman SW and another man. Sarah did not actually comment as far as I recall.
Clearly, there are different perceptions and ideologies ( true and false ones) about this and we should identify what they are. If a common consensus existed and laid down ( even were it an unwritten one), there would be no need for warring couples to resort to the brutal Family Courts.
Fully agree with this as a witness for my granddaughters care proceedings I was ridiculed, demonised, bullied and insulted for being intelligent and articulate. It was and still is the most brutal and inhuman experience and the only winner has been my daughters abusive partner
To clarify one point in the best way I can , being a layperson and ordinary parent, as regards to the E.C.H.R. referred to above.
Articles 1,2 and 3 are absolute rights. They cannot be contravened IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCES AT ALL except when there is an extremely pressing social need. This means in the very,very,very rare circumstances when there is a real and genuine need to protect the general public from a common danger in face of a threat to National security, such as in wartime or when dealing with treason ,espionage ,sabotage , terrorism etc.
Child-protection ,domestic violence ,normal criminal activity within the community , mental illness, child neglect concerns etc. DO NOT constitute a pressing social need necessary to overturn civil rights.
All comments on my view welcome.
See this post for a discussion of Article 3 :-
For anyone interested, in my opinion the systematic gaslighting ,brainwashing ( lies and consistent denial of unlawful actions taken) is sustained mental torture of victim human beings by the perpetrators. It is persecution of the targeted individuals or classes of people and families.
More physical torture of children and young adults is also rife in the care-system. Rape and sexual abuse of girls and boys, deprivation of liberty, physical punishment, physical restraint by groups of Local Authority care staff,is inflicted upon young people (in secret ) as a method of control and/or to enforce compliance ,obeisance to the perpetrators. The sex abuse is not always to satisfy the desires of the perpetrators but used to control and persecute.
Mental torture is traumatic and has long-lasting often permanent effects. Family separation is extreme degradation and can lead to mental unbalance,mental illness etc. not only to children but parents especially the weaker sex (Mums). Traumatic epilepsy and bad nerves etc. can result and the effects can also include premature death which is usually put down to heart failure or stroke.
I suggest expert medical opinion should be sought as I am not qualified but i don’t think i am far out.
The treatment dealt out is unlawful ,however, when parents raise issues in the Family Court, perhaps bringing evidence of it such as unlawful removal or false evidence, it is usually covered-up.
Likewise there is a culture of cover-up within residential care homes and care system as a whole.
The post-writer has described the gaslighting and coercion ,inhumane treatment women endure very well and is ready to challenge it on the behalf of other women.
We should not forget that the authorities are perpetrators as well as male,domestic abusers.
I forgot to mention that drugs are used widely within the care-system illicitly to subdue young people as a method of control not for legitimate medical reasons.
The original post is about two parents who split up and were unable to agree child custody arrangments between themselves and had to go to court to make the decisiuon. It isn’t about the state interfering in private family life, but about a couple asking the state to assist them making a decision they can’t make themsleves. Therefore talk of the ECHR isn’t particularly relevant.
but in any case, Article 8 lays down the right to a family life and it is qualified –
“… except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms
child protection – eg “for the protection of health” and “for the protection of the rights of others” is clearly covered.
Your interest is appreciated,Mark. I thank you for your interpretation of Article 8, the right to a family life without interference etc.etc.
without a FAIR and PROPORTIONATE trial of ones rights and responsibilities conducted in accordance with legal guidelines and the Law. All safeguards in place to be followed strictly etc. Readers will find the information interesting.
My only advice is that you re-read the post above to which i was responding to. It appears to be about a humiliating,vilifying,brutal,terrifying and degrading Family Court system which everyone hates. So now do you understand why I was discussing article 3 which is an absolute right. I have included a link to a discussion here on the CPR about torture and degradation which may be of interest to you.
QUOTE: However, the point of this post is not to get Emma to agree with me or hound her for being ‘wrong’. The point is to identify where our perceptions differ and what shapes that. Is that divide a product of misunderstanding? Or some deeper ideological differences? Is the perception of parents’ clouded by their pain and misery? Or is my response foggy or jaded because of professional arrogance? : UNQUOTE
Thanks for the interesting forward to the post,Sarah.
I agree we should identify where our perceptions differ.Are there deep, ideological differences?
Yes,I think there are. Every one who has been on the wrong side of Family Court proceedings mistrusts them; they see an unfair process.You do not……….. Why does everyone hate the family courts? I have already said above that they are hated because they impose extreme,mental torture and degradation against citizens in contravention of their human rights.This is especially so when they liquidate families.Whether it is an ex-partner who applies to court or whether it is the L.A. ,it makes no difference.
Is your response foggy or jaded because of professional arrogance?’
When human rights are trodden upon roughshod , historically it is due to ideology, dogma and arrogance on the part of the perpetrators. There is a massive power imbalance and ,by jove, those who hold the power certainly take advantage and it is generally for their own political policy imperatives.
I would not call you,personally, arrogant, yet I do suggest you have an excess of pride and trust in your profession and a very ,misplaced one in the Local Authorities, their henchmen and in your colleagues ( including judges themselves). I have noticed how your hackles are raised at the words ‘corruption,corrupt system,unfair courts,bias ,bonuses, and so on.You just will not believe it happens, yet you do recognise the imbalance of power which exists.Of course,there is corruption.If you disagree with us,then you are sadly lacking when it comes to the basic meaning of life,humanity etc. All human beings are corrupt and all liable to dishonesty at times including judges.The only solution to personal wrongdoing is to repent and put things right when we transgress,then make honest efforts to change our ways.We should not deny it exists and it definitely exists in bureaucratic ,authority systems like child-protection.
Please think about it and remember that the corruption is a well-known fact of life especially with politicians, the judiciary and indeed any organisation which wields power over ordinary citizens.I suppose they act cruelly and inhumanely against their targets to subjugate them absolutely. It happens in wartime and it happens in peacetime and usually it is in secrecy.Those with power and authority and policy imperatives must abuse and subjugate their targets and the motive will be ‘pour encouragement des autres’. Nearly everyone else is terrified of getting involved with the child-protection system. They have to have it impressed upon them that resistance is futile.
Sarah, the Public know it and this is why ,over history, democracy developed.It is known Judges can be corrupted,politicians can be corrupt,it is definitely a fact that lawyers can be corrupt and also Public Officials of all kinds with power.That is why we elect representatives and why laws are passed with the consensus of Parliament not by any one individual or ministry. That is also why justice has to be seen to be done and why it is demanded that decisions of a life-and-death nature which affect our human rights are to be taken by a public jury of peers. That is the democratic way of doing things. The discretion of judiciary members like Judge Jeffreys was done away with long ago.
The fact these courts operate in private without juries is enough to convince us that there is a serious risk of corruption. The possibility is there.
Corruption is not a dirty word, don’t recoil at it. We are all corruptible . That is the precise reason why the statute makers have laid down strict guidelines and procedures to be followed scrupulously in child-protection proceedings, to counter it. The Family Courts don’t enforce them which is also why I think Family Courts should have limits put on their power.
Make them concentrate on support plans and make them put the support early as soon as concerns begin to develop.
Of course corruption and confirmation bias exist in every walk of life and we should be on guard against and alert to it. My ‘hackles’ rise however when people continually assert a degree of corruption which is astonishing and which doesn’t exist – for e.g. wholesale plots to steal babies to give then to paedophiles and pay bonuses of 30K a time. This kind of nonsense just diverts energy from the task of dealing with the real – but less ‘sexy’ and immediately shocking – problems that we all know to exist.
How does the Family Court guard against confirmation bias with regards to evidence? I would be grateful for a lawyers advice about the problem.
As an ordinary parent, it seems to me that in a criminal court ( a normal court) witnesses and the providers of expert opinion are disallowed from sitting in court ,hearing the evidence or advice from others, discussing the case with anyone except the solicitor who solicits their contribution and ,apart from what he may see about a case in the paper, does not see the facts or opinions of others before he or she goes into the witness box. They wait outside the court until called and answer questions only,i think.
In the inferior Family Courts witnesses and experts can be contacted by ‘phone and by letter by SW’s,by Guardians and by other professionals and influenced in all manner of ways behind the scenes. At the same time parents have little input being outside the loop.
Are there any safeguards at all? I know medical experts wait until they are called before going into the box but they generally attend the various professionals meetings and discuss the case before hand with the others ( in the absence of respondent parents). I suppose this is one reason why some parents talk of behind the scenes ‘conspiracies’ etc. and make other wild assertions.
Is the process fair? I don’t think so……but comments welcome.
By ensuring that both parents AND the child AND the LA all have separate lawyers, all running their client’s cases and thus all challenging each other’s perspectives on the evidence all the time. It is not perfect, as no system ever could be, but please tell me what you think would be better.
Experts are encouraged to discuss and narrow areas of disagreement in family cases BEFORE they give evidence to save time and money. This is not ‘unfair’, this is sensible use of time. Criminal courts may have different rules, I don’t know, I am not a criminal lawyer. But I would have thought it made a lot of sense to allow experts to have a meeting before a court hearing to see what they agree about and what they don’t, so time spent in cross examination is spent wisely.
I can’t really say not being a lawyer myself but do think some specific safeguards against confirmation bias and general judicial bias should be put in place. We all know it exists but we should make every effort to minimise it. I believe Family Courts should aim to ensure it works in the explicit interests of children .Especially in serious cases where their whole future is at stake there must be safeguards and they must be followed.
I hope the subject is raised at the approaching Public Inquiry. Finally campaigners have achieved one!
It seems to me it might be a good idea were impartial investigators and assessors be independent from the Applicants/ Complainants . That SW’s are employed by L.A.’s and have to follow policy imperatives is just asking for confirmation bias,surely.
All specific ideas to cut it out must be worth considering. Perhaps the C.P.R. could submit some to the Inquiry.What about severing the connection between the L.A. and the C.S?
yes I think this is a valid point. Its asking a lot of SW to be at the same time the people tasked with supporting families but also asked to gather the evidence to support removing their children.
We have to bear in mind ,of course, that the Public Inquiry is into the Family Court justice system not the child-protection system as a whole.
When cases go to Court, we are already clear and have been for a long time that parents,SW’s and other professionals and the state have failed. The only ones who haven’t are the L.A.’s who are on the way to achieving their ( illegitimate?) political aims.
For example, it was generally established at CPR conference 2016 that the true role of SW’s is to plunge themselves into the hole with indigent parents following philanthropic policies a – la Good Samaritan and the methods used by missionaries , to instil morals, to physically set an example to the wayward parents and support them with financial and material input etc. generously applied.Not just arrive with notebooks and collect evidence for the L.A. legals. Featherstone, Mellons,Sparkles ,Devine and all the rest appear to have described the political problems and mainly they are that the LA’s prefer to misdirect their spending and take children into care because it is easier for them and it gives them control over the targeted children and families.
The aspect to be looked into is the Family Court system itself and the alleged injustices which occur , its failures and drawbacks. I suppose you could say that as been my pet subject but now is the time for questions to be put and for radical changes to frontline practices of lawyers.
Conflicts of interests play a big part from what i can see. Even you have a duty to court costs and the Public purse,court time and efficiency etc. which conflicts with the explicit interests of children. Regarding solicitors, i have said how some of them flatly refuse to act for L.A’s and for parents whilst others have no qualms about it and I have written how fee-earners get bonuses for success.
I hope all these things will be examined and the whole problem of public mistrust addressed not to mention the deliberate withdrawal of legal funding in Public Law cases.
Also judicial bias,juries or no juries in serious cases and the rest. Let us hope that the right people are chosen to lead the process. I guess it has to be led by neutrals not Judges and Family lawyers themselves.
As far as bias is concerned, the most absurd practice requiring change from what i can see are the cover-ups. For lawyers to sweep the criminal removal of children, the ripple effect,factitious evidence of the Authorities ,failure to follow guidelines etc. under the carpet because it might not be malicious is extremely wrong. Especially when very little mercy is given to parents who transgress in any way at all,no matter how minor.
Anyway, its no good me waffling on and on. Let’s make the best of the inquiry. I agree with you that three months won’t be long enough to do it properly.
Correction : I meant the deliberate withdrawal of SUFFICIENT legal funding.
Sarah and other readers, I hope you think these are valid points to be considered by the Public Inquiry into the Family Court system.
Are there any other domestic courts which have the power to order family liquidation by which i mean permanency plans either for long-term foster-care away from natural family or enforced adoption?
If there are ,Sarah, i would be grateful if you would say which courts they are.
It seems to me that the Family Courts occupy an unique place in the justice system overall.They have very special powers not enjoyed by any other authority ,court or tribunal. They are able to liquidate families permanently when the Judge considers the order needs to be made ‘in the best interests’ of the child/children involved.
Could we say that for the ‘best interests of children’ can also be described fairly as ‘for political reasons’? I think we can. The L.A’s target certain families and make their decisions in the cause of political policy imperatives which ,rightly or wrongly, they see to be in children’s general interests. We understand that Judge’s make the final decisions at their own discretion and we recognise, i hope, that Judges are often political appointees . Any lawyer not politically correct is unlikely to be chosen for promotion to Judge.
People have different beliefs and ideologies ( see above) as to fairness of hearings and also as to proportionality. Understandable. No matter what the differences and whatever the reality in any particular case ( even if the case has been conducted perfectly correctly), the Judge has the discretion and the power to make the final decision for political reasons.
So the questions we should be asking is can the Authorities make domestic,political decisions which contravene our human rights ? If so, which rights ?
Articles 1,2,3, 6, 8, 10,14, perhaps multiple human rights but the most vital ones are our absolute rights, for example 1 and 3.
I should think that if serious decisions which interfere with absolute human rights are taken, citizens should have an automatic right to a fully legal-funded appeal to the Superior Court. That is to say even if the High Court takes a political decision also, citizens should have the civil right to access a higher one .Ultimately this will mean the ECHR itself.
All replies and other ideas for radical change welcome.
I quite understand your consternation at extreme assertions such as that but the difference in ideology is that we claim proceedings are unfair and you appear to think they are fair (or fair enough ). Surely ordinary citizens are better able to decide on that question .We all think the justice system in Family Courts is broken and there is plenty support for it.so how can the proceedings be fair.
As you know,if proceedings are unfair , such extreme orders should not be made.
Summary judgment when evidence includes assessments and hearsay, just can’t be fair when there isn’t enough time to examine it all. Sometimes judges don’t have the time to read it all.
I was very interested in Emma’s comment on the part two W.D.E.H.T.F.C. thread about absurdly broad, inexpert assessments and ‘non sequiteur’ decisions . I,too, have noticed it. For example, it might be said by a Guardian ,SW, or even by a Judge that a Mum does not ‘appear ‘ to acknowledge ‘concerns’ thus it is ‘thought’ she has a borderline personality disorder thus she is ‘unlikely’ to be able to cooperate and work with professionals thus her baby ‘must’ be removed from her because of the risk it will not be safe in Mum’s care. None of those follow on logically from one another and one wonders why lawyers don’t argue with broad guesswork like that. There are all sorts of reasons.They consider SW’s experts when they aren’t, Guardians aren’t psychologists either although they claim to be. The solicitors ‘may’ have a conflict of interests or be unqualified ; the barristers aren’t given the time to argue issues fully.The Judges cut them short when they try to.I could go on and on but the main thing is as you said above. Why do our perceptions differ? Are there deep ,ideological differences?
Well, we differ on the subject of fairness so , given you agree the judicial system is hanging on by a thread if not broken already and you agree there should be openness,honesty and transparency, which ideology is false, ours or yours?
Thanks for your reply,Sarah.
With reference to the post-writers remarks about a game of chess. In my view it is a brutal,vilifying ,terrifying ,inhuman game of chess . The default position from which respondents start was given to Emma clearly by the barrister and that was that just by being in the family court facing an ex-partner or the ‘concerns’ of a Local Authority , parents are considered to be bad.
One point we should consider is that these days respondents are playing chess against a computer not another human being. So that makes the process even more inhumane. They need a barrister as good as the one Emma had. Perhaps he had the good sense to pit his own computer programme against his opponents’ when crafting his arguments and her statements.
Please see this discussion and follow the links in the comments section:-
Can I add that the Family Court Judge is the only one empowered to make these extreme decisions for political policy reasons.
Not even the L.A’s, the Government or even Parliament can do so. They all have to go through the Family Court to get the orders issued.
To continue with the quest to identify where our perceptions differ ………………………
Forgetting for now about fairness ( art.6), in what other respects do we differ? I believe there is a massive chasm in regard to proportionality (art.8.).
Obviously the views of parents and the children are bound to be affected by the pain and misery to which they are subjected; they see what happened to them as persecution and unwarranted ,disproportionate ,cruel action by the powerful against the vulnerable. Professionals ,on the other hand, are the ones with the power and their perspective is that the families targeted for the treatment deserve everything they get.
So, we need to identify the differences in more detail.
From what I can gather from the professional posts and comments on the CPR ,they appear to decide on responses and action to be taken largely on precedents of past cases where things have GONE WRONG rather than on the true circumstances of each individual case . Because proportionate plans may go wrong ,they reject them. Forget about the political imperatives for now .
For example, if they are faced with a family and a new-born baby where both parents are crack addicts ,where they are homeless and unprepared because the baby was unplanned, where perhaps the couple are unmarried and very young,where Mum and /or Dad have been in care themselves with all the trauma that causes and where they are clearly unable to care for the child at that moment in time and where Mum apparently will not accept concerns and a need for change, they are full of fear and will respond by taking the baby into care.
Because they have no real idea of proportionality and little understanding of humanity to fellow citizens and EFFECTIVE ways to respond, they prefer to liquidate families for the reasons of general political policy rather than try to improve the lot of children in line with their duty under the statute.They choose to degrade them and traumatise them . They feel the inevitable trauma and harm to the children’s psyche caused by breaking families up and alienation is preferable to working together keeping together.
What would be a more proportionate response? Any ideas? Bear in mind that were the parents to be subjected to Police action ,charges of neglect and/or criminal drug-use and found guilty, the criminal court would not be permitted to impose a sentence of family liquidation. They have more proportionate ones available to them. If Mum and Dad were dope-addicts,it would be the easiest thing in the world to prove it .
Children need justice
So I am currently and have been battling a 10 month long, so far court hearing in [REDACATED] courts. I am fighting for my five normal, happy, loved children (as stated by the social services, teachers and every person that has come in to contact with them)
In May 2019 our very normal very happy family was broken apart and torn in to little pieces. Social services were brought in after one of my five children was unfortunately hurt in an accident in April that we as loving parents took him immediately to a&e the same day it happened. Unfortunately due to the lack of time the nhs gets with each patient and the doctor putting his crying and pain down the reflux (something he has always suffered with) our 4month old little boy was told he was fine even after dad had explained what had happened roughly and hour prior and told staff he heard a crack.
Putting our faith in the nhs we left. That afternoon we still had our reservations and we went to our gp surgery where the doctor once again put pain down to reflux and gave him a new prescription and reassured us once again and we left. The next few weeks although he didn’t seem 100% we trusted the reassurance of a&e and gp staff and just put it down to reflux.
Rolled back to May I still every now and again felt something wasn’t right so I contacted our gp again and took him down that afternoon. The gp checked him and said he seemed fine but agreed every now and again he would yelp so best to put my mind at rest and go to get him x rayed the next day, which I did.
This was possibly the worst day of my life my little boy was x rayed and they found a hairline fracture to his right arm, great o thought now they can help him! How wrong I was. The doctor sat me down and said I would not be leaving with him to go and collect my other children from school I had to leave my little boy who had never left mummies side as they now has to investigate. Well at this point I had no idea what he was talking about I could not believe what I was hearing. I had to take my 18month old to go and get dad from work and the other kids from school leaving my gorgeous boy in the hands of strangers. My three girls went to stay at my sisters just around the corner and myself, dad and our 18 month old rushed back to the hospital. Things go bad to worse. The girls were met the next morning by police and social services and spoken to, all of which the report was perfect , no concerns and the kids said how happy they are and how much they are loved and looked after and mummy and daddy are extremely gentle with the baby. (This coming from at then 8 and half year old girl)
During this time our baby was having blood tests, xrays, scans you name it. We were put in a room right opposite the nurses desk to be watched 24/7 no door shut, no curtain shut like complete criminals! But we stayed upbeat as we knew we hadn’t and would never hurt our children. The X-ray then apparently showed another fracture and an abnormality to the 2nd rib however the account we had given was deemed plausible and we were just waiting for a second opinion off another doctor (who we now know has been found guilty in a high court in 2010 to have fabricated injuries to a child) after waiting to be discharged all day, having spoken to the social worker saying all was fine and I would just need to meet her on the Tuesday so she could explain what had been discussed with the children but their would be no more involvement. We were now on the Friday. Around 7:30pm we were then contacted by the duty social team saying they would be over to our room shortly. They did and they explained we could go home however we needed someone to come and stay with us until Monday. My mum. She however had just left my sisters after helping with The children to return to her house 2 hours away, which they had told her was fine as we were being discharged very soon. No one called her, no one asked her, she heard from me calling to ask her if she could then come back 2 hours back to stay with us. She wanted to speak to the duty team however by the time I turned round they had disappeared. They didn’t even wait to see if someone was coming. We were then discharged to collect my other children and drive home an hour away, on our own, with no one supervising, baring in my we were now being investigated for child abuse.
Since then we had an emergency court hearing and in order for my children to stay with nanny, someone they know and feel safe with and stay in their own home which they again feel safe in, myself and dad had to move out. We have been moved from pillar to post and having the care plan changes again and again confusing the kids. Two of which have never ever been away from mummy and daddy not even one night.
They way we have been treated is beyond belief the social system is horrendous, inadequate rates like most but the workers themselves, to give you an idea we didn’t see anyone from May 19 to Sept 19 then social workers changed 8 times up to now!!
Our son was seen by health visitors, immunisations, gp everyone between the times these “fractures” apparently occurred. We have a valid explanation deemed plausible from the off and yet we are still here. Two experts, radiologist and paediatrician to which one way of another agree to the mechanisms and the force of what we have said could have caused them!! How is it now we received a judgement which say non accidental injury on his opinion and based on the balance of probability. What about the probability of 1 child out of 5 to ever have had anything. No concerns ever, happy, loving children written in every report! Never had social services, don’t drink, don’t do drugs!!!
We are fighting and will continue to do so. No matter how hard it’s them children! I have felt like giving up and even committing suicide, these are my children, they are what I live for, my baby was a baby when I left him and watching him grow in to a toddler through a window but I WILL NOT GIVE UP I don’t know when to turn to however I will fight this everyday until I take my last breath. We have to keep our children safe and away from these money making organisations! What’s more they think it’s acceptable to get ex partners, criminally convicted of domestic abuse, mental, physical and on a child for him to be involved as he has rights! Even though he was told by a previous judge he could not see his daughter but because he found out through wonderful Cafcass and threatened the press would be involved guess what he was involved. I fleed this man and ran with my kids and they have put us right back in that danger!!!! TIME FOR CHANGE PROTECT OUR BABIES!
This judge postponed the fact finding hearing in November until end of feb as he had a cold and was medicated throughout all oral evidence then adjourned it for three months to then hear more oral evidence with a bad back, slipped disc and again heavily medicated. This judge has lied and tainted evidence which I have all the evidence of! I will be protesting shortly!