I AM calm!

I have learnt that it is usually a good idea to sleep on it after reading a Christopher Booker article, and not to write in anger. I have slept on this one for a whole week (force majeure) so I am positively serene as I write. Honest.

This time it is a piece beginning with the rather understated headline :

The most sinister court in Britain strikes yet again

The shadowy Court of Protection's treatment of a 72-year-old grandmother is a national scandal, says Christopher Booker

Beneath it is a picture of a sweet old lady rejoicing in her liberation, her red coat conjuring up muddled memories of red riding hood and her escape from the wolf.

In the interests of balance, we also have the Daily Mail's effort :

Grandmother is arrested at Ken Dodd show and held in the cells... just for hugging her teenage granddaughter: Fury as secretive Court of Protection sentences 72-year-old to three months for contempt

 

I'm not going to unpick these line by line. I only really want to gather for you the fuller information that is publicly available - and that was publicly available at the time of publication - in order that you might form a view for yourselves about the accuracy and completeness or otherwise of Mr Booker's (and others) account of this case - and in order that you might also form a view as to how much you want to rely upon his accounts in futures.

It worries me that people swallow what they read without checking the sources. And it worries me that the mainstream media still insist on reporting things without doing the public the courtesy of linking to the source material where available.

So here goes. Some key documents that Telegraph and Mail readers are unlikely to have seen. I'll summarise their contents as I go. You can go back and compare them with what Mr Booker sees and says.

The first judgment : A Local Authority v B, F & G [2014] EWCOP B18 (21 March 2014) 

HHJ Cardinal in Court of Protection. Tells us that the proceedings were ongoing because the LA sought "an order providing for the long-term residence of B, a young woman who has not long ago attained the age of 18, and who resides in a residential care home at a confidential address...since 2007" and "orders regulating the father's and the paternal grandmother's contact with B [that's Mrs Danby], and secondly, injunctive relief so as to prevent direct contact and the removal of B from her present address, and ...to prevent any further inappropriate contact with her."

 

The judgment tells us that there have been care proceedings and inherent jurisdiction (High Court) proceedings ongoing for years and that there have been "disputes between this Local Authority and her father for very many years". Final High Court orders appear to have been made, including injunctions in June 2012, and these were continued on 26 June 2012.

The judge states that "What is concerning about this case is that the continued litigation is proving to cause stress, anxiety, upset and confusion to B. It is therefore very important that finalisation takes place and she knows her future. I intend to ensure that her wishes and feelings are taken careful notice of and taken into account when I come to dispose of this matter finally in early April, and I shall bear in mind what she says, but I also note that her wishes and feelings fluctuate from time to time. B will have the opportunity of meeting me if at all possible."

It is clear from the judgment that B lacked capacity to make her own decisions on the issues at hand, and that the court had concluded this after receiving the evidence of an independent expert. She was represented by the Official Solicitor throughout the proceedings. Whilst the Father disputed that conclusion "he has failed to file any evidence contradicting that which Dr. Halstead has said".

The application at that hearing was for a Hadkinson order (an order preventing any application to the court by a person who is in contempt of court until that person has purged himself of his contempt). The family did not attend, but the Father opposed the application by letter, in which he said "I am not prepared to expose myself to possible imprisonment by travelling south to attend any hearings." This is a reference to the fact that the Father was "currently in contempt of court and faces a substantial sentence of imprisonment".

On 13 September 2012 the court had found beyond reasonable doubt that F had twice arranged to meet covertly with B earlier that year, and in breach of the injunctions in place. The Father had been given an opportunity to attend for sentence but declined and was sentenced in his absence. Significantly, on that occasion the court found that "he will continue to seek out B in defiance of this order, and thereby causing her distress, unless and until he serves a significant period in prison. He was sentenced to a twelve month period of imprisonment". It is clear from reading the judgment that there was no indication that the Father was prepared to comply in future with the order.

Whats more there was a history of what sounds like at least two abductions by F: "there was an occasion when father retained B as a child in Scotland and did not return her, and there was an attempt in the past to remove B from her foster care, all apparently in defiance of court orders".

The judge does make the Hadkinson order, saying "This is an extremely serious case, where the father has repeatedly breached Court orders, it seems. This Court cannot sit idly by if he chooses to stay out of the jurisdiction, to make representations that are unhelpful and do not answer the questions at large and then does not attend to be tested by cross-examination."

He directs publication of the judgment "for all to see".

 

The second judgment : A Local Authority v B & Ors [2014] EWCOP B21 (07 April 2014) 

Again, HHJ Cardinal in the Court of Protection. Again the family did not attend, the Father still had a warrant outstanding for his arrest, and by this stage a committal application had been launched against the Grandmother.

Here he gives us some more of the back story, saying

"Her life story is a very sad one. Social Services were involved with her shortly after her birth, and she was made the subject of a Supervision Order. In due course her parents separated and litigated over her contact arrangements. In 2005 she went for contact purposes to see her father in Scotland, and she was retained by him, making allegations against Mother's partner. However, he grew unable to care for her and asked his local authority for assistance. In due course there was an occasion when he was charged with assaulting her. It was as a result of that that she was placed in foster care, although I note with regard to that assault, that even now and quite inaccurately, she blames herself for the assault that took place."

This "assault" must correspond (very approximately) I think with Christopher Booker's "roughly grabbing her and taking her to safety".

"In October 2010 when the father, in concert with a friend who purported to be his McKenzie Friend, abducted B. Separate proceedings were taken then against G, the paternal grandmother [Mrs Danby]" leading it seems to the granting of injunctions against the father from June 2011, prohibiting all forms of contact. We already know that the care / High Court proceedings concluded in summer 2012, and from this judgment we are told the Court of Protection proceedings commenced in August 2013.

We also get some information about B herself. "She suffers from a lack of capacity owing to an attachment disorder and mild learning difficulties...she exhibits from time to time difficult behaviours and that she has problems in controlling her temper on occasions." Of her wishes and feelings we are told "I note that she continues regularly to see her mother, her mother's partner and her two half-siblings, and she tells me that that is "alright" and that she wants that arrangement to continue."

There is a long passage setting out how the Father and grandmother have behaved unhelpfully over a period of time, and in particular it is said "I have today been shown Facebook entries in which it seems that father and grandmother are campaigning against the local authority and disclosing photographs of B of a worryingly recent nature which reveals, of course, that they have been in contact with her when they should not have been."

It is said that through the covert contact "this father and this grandmother appear to have caused significant emotional harm to B". The judge goes on to spell that out in detail :

"The evidence points unequivocally to me to the effect that whenever the father or the grandmother interfere in her life, B is disturbed and distressed. A recent example suffices. Only recently, she ran away from the home where she lives for a period of five hours. She broke a window in her bedroom, threatened staff with a broken glass and smashed mugs. She scratched herself on the arms and threw coffee all over the ceiling of her room. I am told that when she is distressed, she blames the other young woman who lives in the accommodation with her, but her behaviour seems to relate not to the other young person so much as events in her own life. These are plainly the actions of an emotionally upset young lady. I am even told that she has recently been arrested and indeed cautioned, though of course the Official Solicitor will pursue and has my leave to pursue the validity of such Police action.

Dr. Halstead reports that she is unable to translate distress into emotional anguish, hence, perhaps, her behaviour. Sadly, she continues to have an idealised view of her father, who had promised her she could leave care at the age of 18 and come and live with him. I am satisfied, on the evidence I have seen, that she has regressed to an extent. She no longer goes to college and has ceased doing volunteer work. She is in desperate need of resuming education, learning life skills and receiving therapeutic help, with which she will not presently engage...

Last Friday I had the privilege of meeting B at her care home in the presence of Ms. McFarlane, the solicitor agent for the Official Solicitor. I noted particularly she said this of her father. "If he really wanted to see me, he would come to Court". So from time to time she does exhibit a degree of insight. I believe that could grow if she had the period of peace that I am going to provide her with. For, after two years of therapy and education, the local authority could devise a transition plan for the future...

It is essential that B has that period of peace from litigation, and I believe that this [the four year order made] is the best way of securing it."

Those paragraphs are, for me, the crux of it.

 

The third judgment : Derbyshire County Council v Danby [2014] EWCOP B22 (15 April 2014) 

This is the first of the two committal judgments. Again, HHJ Cardinal in the Court of Protection.

"In the last month or so her behaviour has become more distressed, angry, violent and she has even self-harmed. The local authority would say she was improving in her behaviour for a considerable period of time following final orders in the High Court in the summer of 2013 and it is because of the events that I shall hereinafter relate that her behaviour has so deteriorated."

This sets out the injunction made against Mrs Danby in January 2014 :

"The Second Respondent Kathleen Danby is forbidden to do any of the following, either by herself or by instructing or encouraging another person to do so. 

"(a) From approaching or attempting to approach B personally or through instructing and/or encouraging any other person so to do. 

"(b) from communicating with B in any way whatsoever, whether in writing or by post, telephone, fax, text messaging, e-mail or any other form of telecommunication or information technology, including internet, video calling (i.e. Skype), whether directly or indirectly through another, save that she may receive a single telecommunication call from B on a loudspeaker and supervised by the local authority their servants and/or agents to take place on the first Wednesday of each calendar month between the hours seven o'clock p.m. and eight o'clock p.m. only in strict compliance with the declarations on the face and the schedule of the order of Her Honour Judge …" (it says "Taylor") that should be "… Thomas of even date (annexed hereto). 

"(c) For attending at, entering or attempting to enter or go within J town (the town in which B's placement is situated) either personally or through instructing and/or encouraging any other person to do so. 

"(d) From attending at, entering or attempting to enter or go within 100 metres of XCollege, either personally or through instructing and/or encouraging any other person to do so. 

"(e) From loitering within a radius of 100 metres of Y placementeither personally or through instructing and/or encouraging any other person to do so. 

"(f) From loitering within a radius of 100 metres X College, either personally or through instructing and/or encouraging any other person to do so."

The breaches are said to be arranging to meet with B, meeting with her and passing her a package on 28 February (after personal service of the injunction). The breach is captured on CCTV. B has told staff at her placement about it. The package was a family DVD. The breach was foreshadowed by a period of disrupted and odd behaviour on the part of B. The judge is satisfied that not only did they meet, but that it was prearranged and therefore a quite intentional breach. Following these events B's behaviour deteriorated and was said to be out of character, including an incident of absconding :

"I am sure, too, that the deterioration in her behaviour results from these meetings with her grandmother. Her behaviour has deteriorated; she has self-harmed; she has assaulted staff; she has threatened her co-resident and she has run away. Not in a sense that she disappears by being an hour late, which she does from time to time as is perhaps typical late teenage behaviour, but because she literally runs away and has to be found with the help of the police."

The judge says "This is a public hearing to which all could have attended and a proper notice has been placed outside this court and downstairs in the court's reception area complying with the Practice Guidance of 4th of June of last year. Anyone who wanted to could have attended this hearing if they wished."

He sentences Mrs Danby to a three month term of imprisonment and says that "I shall direct that this lady can come before the court, mitigate and try to persuade me to take a different view if she can justify her behaviour and explain to me what she has done and why it is not as bad as I see it to be." We know from judgment number 4 that she did not do so.

 

The fourth judgment : Derbyshire County Council v Danby [2014] EWCOP B26 (16 July 2014) 

This a short judgment :

"Today was listed to give Mrs Danby the opportunity of persuading me that the sentence I imposed in April was wrong, that I should reduce it, mitigate it or even quash it, and she has failed to avail herself of that opportunity. So, in the circumstances, I have no alternative other than to leave the sentence outstanding, together with the warrant of arrest. If Mrs Danby is arrested pursuant to that warrant she can apply to purge her contempt and I will see her as soon as is possible to look at the matter.

I do hope that she sees sense and avails herself of the opportunity of reducing the sentence I have imposed as quickly as possible.

I need hardly add that other members of her family are seeing the young lady concerned with no difficulty whatsoever."

 

And of course the next thing we hear is that she has been arrested...

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I'd like you to go back to those headlines at the top of this post now, re-read them and think about how accurate, balanced and fair you think they are.

 

What is missing (apart from any judgment regarding the purging of contempt, which I expect will be forthcoming soon), and is likely to remain missing is the judgment(s) from the original care proceedings. If such decisions were made today they would be covered by guidance requiring them to be published - but although only a couple of years ago this was not common practice at the time, and it is quite possible that no publishable judgment exists or that there are perfectly proper reasons for the non-publication (I am keen on publication of judgments where that can be done without risk to the child but am prepared to accept bearing in mind the contents of judgments 1-4 that there may well have been such good reasons). We also don't have all the judgments from the original making of the injunctions - although they appear to have been uncontested by the family at the time so that is unsurprising.

I was - and am - very cross at the insistence that this is an illustration of a shadowy secret court at work when the key judgments in the proceedings have been contemporaneously published and must have been available to the journalists who failed to mention their existence (apart from quoting selectively from the April judgment, without attribution or link). If journalists are so keen on transparency why are they not keener on opening up their own writing to the informed scrutiny of the public?

When I tweeted my irritation at these matters last week some suggested that these inaccuracies were not the real point. And undoubtedly there are other points worthy of consideration - for example if Mrs Danby were treated as is suggested by Booker by the Prison Service or G4S then that would be a matter of concern. By way of further example, legitimate questions are asked about the detailed basis for removing the child in the first place.

As to the behaviour of the authorities whilst Mrs Danby was detained, I am afraid I don't have very much confidence that the account we are given is anything more than journalistic licence in order to make a story about a competent adult who has decided to disobey a court order knowing the potential consequences, into a story about a brutal state bullying a poor little old lady who just wanted to watch a Kenn Dodd show (a talisman of cute old lady) and to hug her granddaughter.

As to the basis for initial removal - well it would be nice to know more, but ultimately we have quite a lot of background facts. There was (it appears) no appeal from any of the earlier decisions. There was / is (it appears) no live application to discharge the care order / any orders in the CoP or live appeal. And for me the current circumstances of an adult who has been in foster care for many years are far more significant - and we have quite a lot of information about those circumstances. To my mind the judgments amply set out why it was necessary to control the contact between the subject and the paternal family - and the fact that B continues to have contact with her maternal family is an indicator that this is more to do with the behaviour of the paternal family than an attempt to prevent this young woman from having contact to her family without justification.

77 thoughts on “I AM calm!

  1. Thanks for the write up Lucy, I have been wrestling with the very same for the past week and without trying to castigate the reporters throughout I am pleased that your view is mirrored in the way I saw the entire case.

    I do worry that with the drive for transparency and openness the wrongful publication of cases could be detrimental in the attempt to achieve this, we have a further “Side” of the proceedings which do not help the public understand the issues being reported, if like the recent are not entirely published correctly, it is not helpful if the information is available but the press reporters chose not to use the tools available, more so not even direct the public to the official sources of the information.

    The emphasis on the real issues I see is particular case is that the way in which contempt of court is dealt with, does the sentence suit the crime or should there be a robust debate about the very issue, when the articles are published like those in this KD case I have seen the public reaction take the wrong turn simply because of the way in which the stories have been published, the Judge and the courts have been castigated which I feel was unwarranted due to the details we now know, the Judge and the courts hands were tied in this matter, there was no other option available to them.

    It really is a sorry state of affairs these cases

  2. I have read every word you have written and also studied the references you make to the various many cases. I could spend hours discussing the family courts. The questionable honesty of the presiding judges. the downright lack of integrity of the many highly paid so called ‘experts’, that really aren’t worth the fortunes they are paid to come up with what they are supposed to come up with, nod nod wink wink. All in all, and to save you the trouble of reading too much, I can say with hand on heart that Christopher Booker is the most honourable, truthful, caring, well informed man and journalist I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I would much rather believe his words than one who has a vested interest in keeping the whole corrupt family law system going. I have personal experience of family law, studied it deeply and have found that (I am sorry to say) it stinks. Not to mention the many innocent parents lives they have so unnecessarily ruined. Long live my friend, Christopher Booker, he deserves a medal, in my humble opinion. Thank you, PinkTape, for being there. (Note: To be included in your comments list, well I hope so anyway.)

    • I have no vested interest in public trust and confidence in the family court system being further. I’d be interested in specific evidence to back up your broad assertions (although O appreciate with not a little irony the practical difficulties of you doing so in light of privacy constraints) but I’m afraid I don’t take them at face value as they don’t match my own experience.

      • Well now I find your response to me very interesting indeed and also somehow find it sort of “I think she protesteth too much” kind of thing. Familoo your denial of “I have no vested interest in public trust and confidence in the family court system being further.” was not directed at you, but why did you think it was? hmm? You ask for evidence of corruption in the God like institution of family justice, I presume that Cafcass officers and Social workers are also officers of the courts, if so then try these at the links….

        http://www.itv.com/news/update/2014-11-28/judge-criticises-social-workers-over-adoption-case/

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2885749/Social-worker-falsely-accused-dad-abusing-six-year-old-daughter-looking-children.html

        http://familyjustice-exposed.com/the-family-justice-system-that-it-runs-on-top-judges-opinion-rather-than-making-judgement-in-accordance-to-the-law/

        • Oh FGS Paul,
          Who was it directed at if not me? In 99% of comments it usually is directed at me and any other lawyer within firing range, including your own – and this one appeared to me to be squarely directed at people like me.
          As for your links – the first appears to be evidence of a family judge being prepared to part company with a biased social worker / LA (although I can’t make the video play this is what the summary suggests). So not really evidence of a corrupt court system but a functioning one.
          The second is a daily mail article about a well known instance of a social worker being sacked for her misdemeanour. I haven’t had time to read the judgment on the relevant regulatory body’s website, but they are all publicly available. The point made is that she should have been struck off I assume, but from the article it looks as if that was considered and a lesser sanction imposed. I’m not in a position to say whether that was right or not but she certainly isn’t working for CAFCASS any more. I would expect CAFCASS to sack someone who made up allegations against a parent.
          The third link is to a web page setting out in terms which are completely legally erroneous someone’s opinion about the corruption and illegality of the family court system and which muddles the two distinct questions of corruption of judges or other professionals and whether or not family courts should be given the powers that they undoubtedly are given by Parliament to make decisions about children on the balance of probability. They are completely unconnected – it is possible to argue perfectly properly that Parliament should reform the family justice system so that only parents convicted of harm in a criminal court or on the criminal standard can have their children removed without there being so much as a whiff of corruption in the judiciary or otherwise.
          I don’t see how your three links amount to evidence of anything very much – it would be very surprising indeed if in a system as vast as the FJS there were not occasional instances of corruption, dishonesty or inadequacy – that is the reality in pretty much all walks of life and we must strive to minimise its occurrence. But those links are not persuasive authority for something more widespread.

  3. Brilliant. And if I were President of the FamDiv (don’t hold yr breath) I’d be very wary of cosying up too close to the press; and I’d read again what children think of judges sucking up to journos: [2014] Fam Law Jo at 1865 by Dr Julia Brophy.

    • thank you. off to read that now. as soon as I’ve stopped myself from trying to mentally construct a universe where DB is Pres!!! 😉

  4. Interesting observations and references that would have held more we weight had you also spent time researching this and other cases where the local authority is evidenced as having perjured itself in court.

    Generally, the use of expert witnesses, who are in effect retained by the local authority, has become a scam on an industrial scale.

    So too is the willingness of solicitors to represent families without disclosing that they are regularly instructed by the same local authorities against which they are asked to defend.

    Worse still are those legal professionals who clearly have lost their moral compass. How can it be that a serving judge (as well as barristers and solicitors) issuing his renowned 15 minute care orders at the request of local authorities could have been simultaneously a director of an organisation supplying commercial services to those same local authorities?

    • I can’t comment on evidence that a LA has perjured itself as I have seen none. Is there such evidence in this case?
      Experts are not generally retained by LAs, and in this case the expert was probably a joint instruction or an instruction of the OS.
      Most LAs have in house legal departments and rarely instruct solicitors so I can only presume you mean to refer to barristers – who are instructed by all parties. That is a widely known fact that arises from the independence of the bar and the cab rank rule – although I appreciate not all clients will have given it much thought in terms of its application to their lawyer.
      I don’t understand your last para which seems to relate to something unconnected.
      You make lots of broad assertions but they are light on specifics or evidence.

      • Derbyshire County Council have [edited]… but I won’t go on, you’ve already made up your mind.

        • Ihtoit, I’ve received your comment. I don’t feel able to publish it as I am not sure to what extent it may breach privacy rules (I am not sure if you are involved in the case this post relates to). I’ve published your very redacted comment above so you can see that I have seen and considered it.
          Lucy

  5. Sorry, I’ve not read your piece on Booker and I haven’t bothered to read Booker’s articles for some time because of his unerring ability to misinterpret and provide his own biased view of events, so forgive my ignorance.

    Anyone who takes any Judgment as gospel for the events in that case is not being realistic. In the end in the family courts, court of protection it is just another human beings interpretation, although a very good indication usually and an effective summing up of a case very often.

    Just one simple comment, open courts and full transparency of the process would dilute if not banish the likes of Booker to the far away fringes.

    • Of course I agree Chambers with your second paragraph. A judgment is but one perspective – but it is the most authoritative we have and to a degree does represent both sides of the case by setting out the arguments and giving reasons for their adoption or rejection. Imperfect perhaps as they are documents created by human beings – but generally reliable insofar as they go. They may of course not cover points seen as judicially irrelevant but which are of significance to others.

      I don’t know that full openness would solve the problem of rubbish reporting in itself – not without public legal education. And it would create its own set of difficulties.

  6. Lucy

    You have assumed throughout, as have other lawyers who have commented in various places, that the paternal family has has been claimed been properly served with the necessary legal papers throughout. I work for a local authority and on the basis of what I have come to know about the way children’s social workers behave, it is very unlikely that the family were ever either properly served or served in a timely fashion.
    The fact that the father did not submit any contradictory evidence is an irrelevance; he may have had no means to do so being unable to find a lawyer who would represent him or the funds to pay for one.
    You also ignore the fact that the father has effectively been denied access to the court proceedings because of the threat of arrest that hangs over him. This is a clear breach of longstanding legal principle and you fail to ask why none of the judges involved have done anything to address it.
    What is clear from these proceedings is that the local authority has managed comprehensively to alienate the paternal family, and they feel so deprived of any legal remedy that they have taken to Facebook to make their case. They are far from the first family to do this. Again, none of the judges involved have bothered actually to make any effort to speak personally or at length with the paternal family and to give them a proper opportunity to put their case. A further breach of legal principle. You state that no application to discharge orders has been made but don’t mention if the paternal family actually has any legal representation or if they were aware that they could make such an application.
    Contemporaneous publication is a red herring which you cannot be unaware of, essentially Thomas J and HHJ Cardinal have made a series of decisions without any input from the paternal family and then published a judgement in order to try to claim they have met the requirement of open justice. They have not.
    You cite continuing contact with the maternal family but do not acknowledge the repeated obstacles that have been put in the paternal family’s way.
    Finally, if you really think it is acceptable for a local authority legal department to ask one police service to ask another to arrest a pensioner in the foyer of a theatre then I despair. There are no circumstances under which this should ever have happened.

    • Gladiatrix,
      I hadn’t assumed service – personal service ewas proved and is recorded in the judgments. Furthermore, the covert behaviour of the PGM is entirely consistent with knowledge of the order and as far as the reports in the press are concerned there is not a whiff of non-service or lack of knowledge.
      People on the wrong end of an application to commit them to prison are entitled to legal aid as of right.
      You say the paternal family have not been given an opportunity to comment or participate but I’m not sure what else the court could have been expected to do. The court cannot let its orders be disobeyed, particularly those it has made in order to protect the stability of the vulnerable. If the family had either obeyed the orders or apologised for their breaches they would have been quite able to participate.
      I am not sure that the fact the arrest was in the theatre is particularly pertinent to anything really. I struggle to square your perception of the case with the information that is publicly (and lawfully) available – I can only assume you are relying on some facebook information that I have not seen.
      I agree that the account of the detention per Booker is concerning if accurate – but the system of the local police acting on behalf of the court (not the LA to be pedantic) to execute a warrant is simply the way things work – I’m not sure what system you would rather have in cases where there is a warrant for arrest.

      • No, the documents created by the court in response to claims made by the local authority say that service was effected. That does not mean that it was.
        What else could the court have done? Hmm, let me see …… made use of a thing called a telephone perhaps? Asked a lawyer based in Scotland to go to see the father and ask for his side of the story? Made the effort to speak privately to the grandmother, after she was brought to court or even better having had her arrested gone to see her in prison, as had been done with the granddaughter?
        My perception of the case is based on being a local authority lawyer knowing, as you apparently don’t, that social workers are frequently incompetent and untrustworthy in almost equal measure.
        Again, you are assuming that 1) the family knew about the orders and 2) were actually given any meaningful opportunity to respond to them. The clear inference is that they didn’t and weren’t.
        The police were contacted following information provided by the local authority; the court did not know that the grandmother was attending the theatre.
        You are far too quick to take a local authority’s word for things Lucy.

        • I don’t have any particular reason to think that service was not effected. It does not appear to have been asserted by anyone that it was not effected. And furthermore the manner in which the contempt was carried out (i.e. secretively) is rather indicative of knowledge of the existence of the order.
          As it happens I am regularly to be found at court declining to take a local authority’s word for something or other, and getting told I am a pain in the arse for my trouble.

  7. Sorry, there is a typo. It should read ‘as has been claimed’.

  8. […] day, today – of an experienced (though fact averse, it seems) Christopher Booker (per Pink Tape: http://www.pinktape.co.uk/cases/i-am-calm/ […]

  9. The twenties star Mae West was once asked by the judge she was facing in court “Are you trying to show your contempt for this court ?” and she repled “No your honour, I’m just trying to hide it !”
    I think she got it just about right ! When judges like Cardinal make outrageous orders forbidding relatives who love each other from all contact even by phon,e or email with total disregard for human rights then types like Cardinal should be kicked off the bench at the very least! Contempt should be reserved for those who misbehave in the court itself or those who threaten bodily harm to others.
    Easy for Lawyers to wrap up their rulings in pages of jargon like our respected editor has done on this blog ;but what are the indisputable facts?
    This young girl was in care and looking forward to living with her family when she reached 18.But no !The so called Court of Protection took over and she was ruled to have no capacity and the mental age of 9 !
    Time and again this girl with” no capacity” outwitted her captors to escape and see her father and/or her grandmother ! Too smart by half for her dim witted carers?
    The family used to be the all important unit that bound together our civilised society but now too many people earn their living by simply tearing family life
    apart.The fact is that if grandma had not hugged her grandaughter she would not have gone to jail.Yes she broke an order laid down in my view illegally by a judge who should have known better !Grandma had no criminal record before this incident and had never harmed anyone in her life so how dare the judge or anyone else forbid all contact.Yes probably the young girl did behave badly after contact with her father or grandma but that was probably because she wanted to go home with them and resented the restraints imposed on her by those she regarded as her jailers !
    Should we believe grandma when she says that after arrest she was deprived of food,refused access to a solicitor,refused the opportunity to notify her family and kept handcuffed even when she went to the lavatory? Well these accusations have been given enormous publicity over 3 days in the Mail and the Telegraph but have NEVER BEEN DENIED and police have neither investigated nor commented on their truth or otherwise which surely they would have done if they were false. If true there has been far more lawbreaking by the prison authorities than by grandma but double standards have as usual prevailed……

    • You say Ian that the Grandma never harmed anyone in her life and yet the judge has found that she had caused significant harm to the child through her actions. No doubt that was not her objective, but there we are.
      Leaving aside the question of whether this lady ought to have been arrested in the first place I don’t take issue with the proposition that she deserved to be treated humanely and with dignity whilst in custody. I would hope that she was, but I acknowledge that there are suggestions that she was not.

    • Here Here Ian! And the truth as always. THE KATHLEEN DANBY CASE. FACTS AND MY OBSERVATIONS. A CLEAR CASE OF STATE INTERFERENCE, OF THEIR CRUEL PERSECUTION AND TORTURE OF A TEENAGER AND HER GRANDMOTHER, KATHLEEN DANBY, ALSO OF THE GIRLS FATHER. ALL TO DESTROY THE LOVE THEY HAVE FOR EACH OTHER. If you are interested in the details of the much publicised case of Kathleen Danby… (all now in the public domain, so no editing needed here familoo)… the grandmother who was jailed for just hugging her granddaughter, then all you need do is read what is found below at “BAILII”. On reading the actual court transcript I feel sure that you will come to the same conclusions that I have.

      Those of us who are in the know, about the depravity of the family courts and of the heartless judges who sit in them, then you will appreciate that their decisions are made in a vacuum of secrecy and of total cruelty. The Danby case is a prime example of just how shocking that cruelty is!

      You will read of a child that has been put into care at a very young age, probably against her will, but certainly against the will of the father and the child’s Grandmother, who it seemed were not willing to just wave goodbye to a child they obviously loved so much. It will become clear to you that this trio of a family were not willing to lay down and die and deny each other their mutual love.

      UK Social Services have what I like to term as “The SS culture of blame” it is well known to anyone that has had the misfortune of having anything to do with these unfeeling gamesters. The Danby case is liberally sprinkled with that SS culture of blame. But Note this… the blame is never towards themselves, only towards their victims and in this case the blame is squarely placed at the feet of Ms Danby and the father, who are constantly accused, by social workers and the courts, for the alleged poor behaviour of the child in question, while she is kept incarcerated in a foster home obviously against her will to remain there. I quote: “In the last month or so her behaviour has become more distressed, angry, violent and she has even self-harmed. The local authority would say she was improving in her behaviour for a considerable period of time following final orders in the High Court in the summer of 2013 and it is because of the events that I shall hereinafter relate that her behaviour has so deteriorated”… BLAME, BLAME AND YET MORE BLAME, ‘and your honour we are not making this up’. Do you smell the Rat yet, I sensed that reek deep in my nostrils after only 2 minutes of reading this fabricated nonsense!

      The child in question is reported to have “learning difficulties” and what is termed as an “attachment disorder”. This is a phrase that Social workers love to use, but always in perverting its meaning to their own advantage. What they like it to mean is this: if the child becomes distraught or shows signs of anger after she is taken or is prevented from seeing those she wants to be with and fond of (her father and Ms Danby) then the mystical personality condition of “attachment disorder” will kick in, and right on time! It is clear to see from this that the Judge had little idea of what this alleged condition is, therefore he of course would just go along with anything that the local authority said or claimed about the child. In other words when the child runs away from her forced captivity, which she has done so over a hundred times, from the care home she detests, then the ones to blame for this are her father and her Grandmother, who have put her up to it, (allegedly reading between the lines.) A catch 22 if ever there was one.

      So, in conclusion this is a classic case of the famous “Catch 22”. If Ms Danby does not give up on her love for her grandchild, if she does not give up wanting to hug her, if she does not obey the court injunctions to stay away from a child she obviously loves, then she faces prison. On the other hand, why have the court not considered the obvious direction that Kathleen Danby is determined to take, that of breaking their orders because she has a principled love in her heart for a child that she cannot let go of? Do we really have to stop loving someone because a court orders us to do so? Because this is tantamount to what the court is asking Ms Danby to do… TO STOP LOVING HER GRANDCHILD!

      I condone your unconditional love Ms Danby and your actions to disobey all the injunctions this crazy law has put upon you. I urge you to continue in getting the justice you so well deserve. I congratulate you Kathleen Danby!

      http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2014/B22.html

  10. I used to think Christopher Booker was marvelous (largely based on his Seven Basic Plots book) and I would hang on his every word. Now I don’t even bother to read him.

  11. Lucy ,you say the judge found that grandma had caused he grandaughter “significant harm” . Easy to say but apparently impossible to demonstrate or define !
    What harm did grandma cause that warranted an order forbidding her even an affectionate hug without a three month jail sentence?
    Where is the compassion in this case?

    • It IS defined – in the judgment (and as set out in the blog post). I think that there comes a point in some cases where there are very few options left to ensure a child or adult is protected from harm – be it well intentioned harm or otherwise. I don’t think compassion really helps us with those, although there are a number of compassionate references in the judgments by the Judge hoping forlornly that the family might purge their contempt in order to move forward.

  12. “The evidence points unequivocally to me to the effect that whenever the father or the grandmother interfere in her life, B is disturbed and distressed. A recent example suffices. Only recently, she ran away from the home where she lives for a period of five hours. ” said judge Cardinal
    This is the ONLY reason that the judge gives for banning granny from contact with her grandaughter.I would have thought that she ran away so many times to see her father and her granny because she wanted to be with them and her alleged “misbehaviour” was a result of being kept captive by an unfeeling State after she finally reached her 18th birthday instead of being released as both she and her father expected.
    The judge has given absolutely no detail at all of what specifically granny did that was supposed to significantly harm her grandaughter just the usual mantra quoting “significant harm”.That is plainly because she gave her grandaughter the affection she lacked as a captive of the State (even a hug)
    and that would never do………….

  13. Lucy,

    Your blog is very informative, and I’m grateful that you write it, but it seems abundantly clear that the family courts system is plagued by people who could charitably described as conspiracy theorists, or – more bluntly – idiots. A few of these apparently insist on posting on your blog.

    I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to have to reply to comments from such people, and their rants certainly don’t add to either the experiince of reading the blog, or the sum of wider human knowledge. I for one certainly wouldn’t have any objection if you simply deleted without engagement comments which showed ignorance of, or a partisan approach to, family law. It’s not a democracy, it’s your site, and we come here to read your views and analysis, and that of intelligent and educated commentators, not the likes of some of those commenting above. If you were ever tempted to engage in censorship, please know that some of your readers would be more than happy for you to do so.

    Thanks

    • Ross, at times (including this evening) it is VERY, VERY tempting…But I’ve sort of committed to a policy of engagement, insofar as that is possible. However, I do sometimes throw my hands up, and very occasionally I swear or block people. As time wears on (PT is now almost 8 years old) I have less energy for the same old conversations! But I’m not ready to give it up yet. I don’t hope to convince the tinfoil hat wearers, but I’d like to think that some of the more vulnerable people who might come across these arguments elsewhere – with no counter – might get a different perspective by reading the comments.

    • Ross,

      It is a shame that “intelligent and educated” persons like yourself have to struggle through the “idiot’s comments at times.

      My heart goes out to you for the insufferable pain you are subject to.

      Just a thought, don’t read the comments or if you do, just skip past those that are from the “idiots’, hope that helps.

      For example I will be skipping past posts headed “Ross” in the future as they will likely contribute very little, as well as some others.

      I don’t always agree with Lucy by any means but I respect that she engages with all on this blog generally, despite the obvious hopelessly deficient arguments of some. However, even in these wildly foolish comments from some, there may be an element of interest, to those of us who genuinely wish to improve family law and have a better understanding.

  14. Why do we see debate upon debate the facts misinterpreted on cases such as these then the constant castigation of a system which does need work and addressing but on the whole this blog article there are no solutions put forward, save for DB becoming el Presidente, what does all of this castigating honestly achieve?.

    I will say this as parting comment, from the start of the published judgments there is ample information, which I would add would be a true account of the case as seen by the Judge, no dispute by any other party. the Father could not cope with the child after keeping the child following a contact visit so HIMSELF went to the Local Authority for assistance, then the Assault on the Child occurred, [assault is assault no matter how much its play down on other sources] which, sadly, the child blames herself for… which means there is enough evidence to instigate the process and to raise the concerns and harm issues, from reading do they, the authorities simply dismiss them concerns, if the do would we be reading another failing article by the Authorities? [ED (@familoo): It is unclear whether or not there was an assault – it is apparent from the judgments and press articles that there was some physical incident and that the F was *charged* with assault – but whilst some press reports suggest he was convicted the judgments do not. It is also unclear what specific findings were made by the Family Court on that point. So we are unclear of the precise context / appropriateness of the grab i.e. was it sufficient to make it an “assault”?]

    What is also missing from this particular debate is it seems on the face of it this young adult has spent almost all of her life in the litigation process by various parties, for which the Judge chose to put a stop to and quite rightly so, from reading of the papers it was much needed. If the Father, Grandmother or the Silent Mother of the child were not happy with the orders, one would have thought a full and proper challenge should have been made, rolling back the clock the courts have been placed in the position of one side of the case only, despite the push by the courts to hear both sides it was not to be.

    what are the solutions in these cases when the Judge only has one side of the page, how does the courts then direct the proceedings, how does the Judge do the up most to protect the child which from reading comments seems to be missed, one shoe does not fit all, I have witnessed many questionable judgments over the years and yes I have seen the occasions where the Authorities have not been playing the fair game, however how does that fit in to this case when the concerns of a child spending her entire life being in court proceedings, the assault, the removal from her own Mother and the “Catch me if you can” actions by KD be one which is protecting the child/ young adult.

    We need solutions to many problems faced in Family Courts and such others, the constant tearing apart of the system does not go to any length to attempt to fix it, it simply drives the wedge even deeper, the whole point of the blog article was started simply because of the inaccurate reporting of the case, with the obligatory comment from John Hemming MP, he does pose a bit of a solution…..

    “Lib Dem MP John Hemming said: ‘I will be asking questions of the Justice Secretary as to whether this is appropriate. There is no question that there is a big problem involving the prosecution of people in secret.
    ‘And I worry about the way speech is monitored between members of the family. There is no freedom of speech when social services are involved.’”

    There in the middle of the usual, John going to ask Questions if this is right, on one side we have the no’s and no doubts the others will be saying yes, where is the middle ground, that folks should be the foundations of the debates on these particular cases

    • Jerry ,there is a simple solution to most of these problems .”No punishment without crime” No child should be taken from sane parents unless one of them has been charged with and eventually been convicted against a crime against children.
      Grandma was initially punished by an injunction forbidding her contact of any kind with her grandaughter even though she had never been accused of any crime against her or anyother child.
      Before the appearance of social workers and family courts in 1948 that was the case and that was in effect the law.It is also the case in most EU countries though exceptions do arise.
      In this case it is evident from what the judge himself said, that both the father and his daughter expected to be reunited when she left care at age 18 and the frustration when she was still retained must have led to her misbehaviour.For someone with a mental age of nine she does seem to have outwitted her dimwitted carers many many times and all credit to her for doing so!
      When babies are taken for mere “risk of emotional abuse” it is a crime against humanity for which those involved should be punished and when injunctions are served forbidding relatives who have committed no crimes from contacting children(or other adults) even by email or phone, that also must be a breach of the human rights of both relative and child and perpetrators should also at least be relieved of their posts.

  15. Sounds like more lawyer jargon to me ! The case is simple unless analysed by someone who “can’t see the wood for the trees” !

  16. I’ve not seen what abuse the Grandmother and Father are supposed to have inflicted on this young woman, but I would offer another interpretation of her distress following her contact with her paternal family, that is an interpretation which is well understood in the medical profession. When children were first admitted to hospitals visiting hours were very restricted. Following the parents visits the children were very distressed. The medical staff initially interpreted this as the parents visit causing the distress, but in fact it was the parents absence for long period which caused the problem.

    http://hharp.org/library/gosh/patients/families-patients.html

    “Visiting hours for parents were strictly controlled. From 1880, mothers were allowed to visit on Thursday afternoons, Sunday being known as ‘fathers’ day’. The grief of the children on their parents’ departing was dealt with by a different ward routine on visiting days; as soon as the visitors had gone, the children’s tea was brought in, with extra treacle or sugar on the bread. In later years, the distress of the children was silenced (if not assuaged), by immediately dressing them in velvet and silk, and taking them to the hospital chapel for a hymn service. Brothers and sisters were not allowed to visit patients until the 1960s.”

    and

    “It would take another forty years for the medical establishment to fully appreciate that the separation of a child from his or her home, even to the best children’s hospital facility that could be created, caused inordinate distress to the child. It took another few decades for the principle of close parental involvement in the treatment of the hospitalised child to be accepted.”

    “In 1959, The Platt Report, ‘The welfare of children in hospital’, sent shock waves throughout the hospital establishment in Britain.”

    “Greater attention needs to be paid to the emotional and mental needs of the child in hospital, against the background of changes in attitudes towards children, in the hospital’s place in the community, and in medical and surgical practice. The authority and responsibility of parents, the individuality of the child and the importance of mitigating the effects of the break with home should all be more fully recognised.”

    “Sister McElnea, the GOSH cardiac sister, believed strongly that the separation of parent and child was barbaric, and pushed very hard in the 1960s for extended visiting and the closer involvement of parents with the medical care of their children. With the backing of Dr Richard Bonham-Carter, and support from patient and child welfare organisations, she was successful; brothers and sisters were allowed to visit from 1962 and six years later, unrestricted parental visiting hours was introduced. Thereafter, wherever possible, the parents of GOSH patients helped look after the child, and were trained in techniques to continue care at home.”

    I think the Family Courts need to catch up with the medical profession if they want to avoid the obvious causes of this distress.

    • That’s genuinely interesting historical material. Not remotely relevant I don’t think to this case, but really interesting. Thanks.

      • It very relevant indeed, as the judge said:

        “The evidence points unequivocally to me to the effect that whenever the father or the grandmother interfere in her life, B is disturbed and distressed.”

        It explains why she is distressed by contact with her father and grandmother, she wants the contact, but doesn’t know if she will ever be allowed to see them again. Regular contact would very likely alleviate the distress and improve her outlook overall.

      • If I recall correctly, it was observation of children’s reaction to hospital visits and being kept away from their parents which led to Bowlby’s work on attachment theory.

        I actually very much doubt whether Ms Danby would have received a custodial sentence if she had obtained representation and attended the hearing, but we will never know now.

        If the first person you contact is a polemical campaigner who believes that family courts are all a stitch-up, I wonder if you get the proper advice which is “You’re entitled to free legal advice and representation, let me help you find a lawyer to sort this out for you and advise you what’s the best step for you to take next”

        [Cue cascade of the usual suspects saying that all lawyers are hopeless/in the pockets of social workers / bent / slaves to the corrupt system. I can never quite see how that squares with the lawyers on say, Re D not only fighting for parents for free but signing up to personal liability for costs orders against them personally if they lose]

        • Why do you need a lawyer to get justice?

          • …because not everybody is as loquacious, eloquent or persistent as you Bri.
            (and not everybody does need a lawyer to get justice)

        • >”I can never quite see how that squares with the lawyers on say, Re D not only fighting for parents for free but signing up to personal liability for costs orders against them personally if they lose”

          Perhaps that’s because you’re looking for logic, rather than merely embarking on a demented, emotionally-deranged crusade against ‘the system’ as many of these chaps (for it is almost exclusively men, isn’t it…) are doing.

          If – compared to everyone else – they’re *so* clever, and such upright citizens, why don’t they go to law school, do a GDL and LPC, complete a training contract, and then come back and tell everyone what’s wrong with the system, having first educated themselves and earned some credibility? If they truly are the uniquely honourable paragons of virtue that they seem to think they are, they will be sure to be a roaring success in all that to which they turn their hand.

          Or, perhaps they’re completely wrong, and thus it’s easier – and more cathartic – to shake their fists at the wind, and spout utter nonsense on the Internet. That might be it.

          • Ross,

            The following eminent judges and highly qualified and experienced lawyers believe there are real problems with the justice system.

            Are they on “demented, emotionally-deranged crusade against ‘the system’ ” as well?

            Funnily enough some of them are women, which does not fall into your “exclusively men” label either, strangely.

            There are plenty more comments from those who have slightly more qualifications and experience than a GDL & LPC and also have finished a training contract, along these lines:

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2004/apr/02/childrensservices.uknews

            Lord Justice Munby – 2004

            Judge backs angry fathers over contact with children – Call for sweeping changes to family justice system after ‘shameful’ court failures

            A high court judge yesterday launched an extraordinary attack on the family justice system for failing separated fathers and their children.

            Mr Justice Munby, a respected judge of the Family Division, said he was going public with a judgment following a private hearing, while keeping the parties anonymous, because judges needed to “face up honestly” to the failings of the system so as not to forfeit public confidence.

            He called for sweeping changes to the system after a father had to abandon his five-year battle for contact with his seven-year-old daughter following 43 court hearings in front of 16 judges. The “wholly deserving father”, who last saw his daughter in December 2001, had left court “in tears, having been driven to abandon his battle for contact”.

            The delays in the case were scandalous, added the judge, who said he felt desperately sorry for the father, whose case was “far from unique”.

            http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article3850658.ece

            Lord Justice Ward – 2008

            Vengeful mothers leave good fathers powerless to see child, says judge

            A senior judge spoke out against child access law yesterday, saying that the courts were powerless to help decent fathers to see their children if vengeful mothers stood in the way.

            “The father complains bitterly, passionately and with every justification that the law is sterile, impotent and utterly useless – we have to acknowledge there is a degree of force in what he says,” the judge told the Court of Appeal Civil Division.

            “But the question is what can this court do? The answer is nothing. This is a truly distressing case. It may not be untypical of many, but in some ways it borders on the scandalous. It certainly is tragic.”

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/relationships/divorce/6575997/Third-of-family-break-up-children-lose-contact-with-fathers-in-failing-court-system-poll.html

            Lawyers said the study showed that the court system itself was making family break-up more acrimonious with children used as “pawns”….

            Opposition politicians said the poll presented an alarming picture of a system “in a mess” which was all too often leaving fathers “shut out”.

            The poll of 4,000 parents and children was carried out to provide a snapshot of the workings of the family court system exactly 20 years after the implementation of the landmark 1989 Children Act…..

            A quarter of the children said that they had been asked to lie to one parent by the other and 15 per cent said they had even been called on to “spy” for their mother or father.

            Meanwhile half of parents polled admitted deliberately drawing out the legal process for maximum benefit and more than two thirds conceded that they had used their children as “bargaining tools”….

            “The adversarial nature of the system invites people to come and use the courts system as a punch up and the children get used as pawns,” said Sandra Davis, head of family law at Mishcon de Reya, for whom the poll was conducted.

            “It polarises parents and it puts children in the middle of the antagonism.

            “Some fathers back off because it is too painful to carry on litigating, they give up.”
            Tim Loughton, the Tory Shadow children’s minister, said: “This is alarming evidence of the very detrimental impact it is having on the welfare of the children themselves.”

            “Clearly, the court system is failing and is positively encouraging conflict – and continuing conflict.”

            Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader and founder of the Centre for Social Justice, warned that young people were bearing the scars of a divorce “boom” and a resulting lack of father figures.

            “It is a mess, it needs a complete overhaul,” he said. “It is an organisation locked in secrecy and deeply unhelpful to the parents and the children and all too often able to exacerbate the problems that they are about to face.”

            David Laws, the Liberal Democrat children’s spokesman, added: “In too many cases the children become caught up in the crossfire between two warring parties in a system which sometimes encourages the parents to take entrenched positions.”

  17. Interesting that suespicious minds doubts if Mrs Danby would have received a custodial sentence if she had attended with legal counsel.In other words ,she was punished not for hugging or contempt of court but for failing to attend with a lawyer? Surely nobody should be sentenced to prison in their absence? Surely that’s what happens if you aggravate third world dictators not UK judges?
    As to kid’s misbehaviour after visits from relatives;social workers inevitably claim this shows that parents have a bad influence and that children don’t want to see them, when they know quite well that most of the children get distraught when parents and grandparents have to leave contact but the children are forbidden to go with them and cannot understand why especially as parents at contact are denied freedom of speech so cannot even explain that the enforced separation is not what they have chosen.
    Childre are not allowed to say what they think or want during contact so that is not going to improve their behaviour either !

    • Forcedadoption,
      One. Last. Time.
      She was punished for intentionally breaking a court order (and sentenced on the basis she had not apologised for breaking a court order and had not indicated that she would obey it in future). If you take your proposition that nobody should be sentenced in absentia this would mean that the courts would be utterly powerless whenever someone skips bail or fails to attend. In fact there was a warrant for her arrest and but for the fact she left the jurisdiction she would have been at court anyway.
      As we have discussed many times before your depiction of contact is not representative of the vast majority of cases.
      This child (now adult) was allowed to say what she thought – the judge met her. He considered the views that she had expressed and the changeability of them. Her lack of capacity did not mean he ignored her wishes, just that he considered other matters in the mix alongside those wishes.

      • Honestly Lucy you miss the point.Suespicious minds claims grandma would probably have avoided prison if she had attended court and also brought a lawyer.My reply is that if that theory is correct and the difference between her freedom and her imprisonment could be” attendance in court with a lawyer” then his THEORY (not what happened in practice) seems to indicate that the difference between freedom or not rested not on contempt or breaches of it but simply her presence and that of a lawyer.
        She would in effect have been punished for non attendance etc since that according to Suespicious minds made all the difference!etc

        • OK, we have reached the point of diminishing returns. I can’t invest any more energy in this futile conversation.

      • I find this case astonishing. I’ve read [edited]. I don’t see or get a sense of a woman who lacks intelligence or compassion. I don’t know the father and couldn’t be bothered to search.

        The facts strike me as quite simple. Child has been in care against father’s will and her own (probably). She’s now 18 and is an adult. Before this farce descends into something as acrimonious as the Linda Lewis case I think the issue is that the court and the social workers should be challenged. Attachment disorders, ADHD, mild learning difficulties – really none of these actually exist except in the minds of staff at pharmecutical companies and so-called psychiatrists. So how about some openness about what’s actually happened – without the mumbo jumbo.

        I have no more faith in a social worker diagnosing or predicting behavioural problems than I have of one of them winning a spelling bee or attaining a degree from anything other than a low ranking poly. And I suppose they are the ones telling us the girl has mild learning difficulties – quelle irony!!

        As with many of these cases I often find myself asking just who or what is supposedly being protected.

        • Wait, what? Attachment disorders, ADHD and mild learning difficulties DON’T EXIST?? Wow. I’m not sure we know that social workers diagnosed any of these things as opposed to psychiatrists or psychologists or some other medic. As you say, it’s supposition on your part.

  18. Lastly of course sentencing in someone’s absence is wrong ,otherwise why allow defendants to come to court at all? An arrest warrant and extradition proceedings give courts all the power they need without a sentence on top .

  19. Lucy, may I remind you of the old advice?

    Don’t wrestle with a pig. The pig will enjoy it and you’ll get covered in mud.

    • You are of course quite right oh wise one. Going for a shower!

    • Andrew,

      FA may be wrong for the most part but at least s/he has put forward a point of view and is willing to discuss.

      Your comment although mightily clever, splendidly witty and extraordinarily amusing, does not seem to further the discussion in any way.

      It would be of great benefit I am sure to FA, myself and others if you were to put your clearly prodigious talents towards enlightening us on what could only be a remarkably view point.

      Thanks in anticipation.

  20. I can only repeat that punishment without crime is wrong,forced adoption is wrong,and sentencing people in their absence is wrong unless you really want to live in a totalitarian state.

  21. Apologies for typos.

    • WHAT THE JUDGES SAY

      1: Lord Justice Thorpe said There is nothing more serious than a removal hearing, because the parents are so prejudiced in proceedings thereafter.

      2: Lord Justice Wall (the former Senior family court judge) said that the determination of some social workers to place children in an “unsatisfactory care system” away from their families was “quite shocking”.

      3: In a separate case on which Sir Nicholas Wall also sat, Lord Justice Aikens described the actions of social workers in Devon as “more like Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China than the West.

      4:- In Re B-S (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 1146, Sir James Munby(President of the family courts) said: “We have real concerns, shared by other judges, about the recurrent inadequacy of the analysis and reasoning put forward in support of the case for adoption, both in the materials put before the court by local authorities and guardians and also in too many judgments. “This is nothing new. But it is time to call a halt.”

  22. Sorry, but I didn’t get a sensible answer to my question so I’ll repeat it – Why do you need a lawyer to get justice?

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the vast majority of the polulation aren’t loquacious, eloquent and persistent, as it’s been suggested that I might be, but surely the vast majority are entitled to justice. If they, or infact anyone, needs a lawyer then legal aid should be available to all. After all justice can’t be the preserve of the wealthy and most people can’t afford lawyers without it.

    • >”Why do you need a lawyer to get justice? …the vast majority of the population aren’t loquacious, eloquent and persistent…but surely the vast majority are entitled to justice. If they, or in fact anyone, needs a lawyer then legal aid should be available to all. After all justice can’t be the preserve of the wealthy and most people can’t afford lawyers without it.”

      I think you’re preaching to the converted by writing on this blog. The UK currently has an adversarial system which assumes both intellectual capacity and specialist knowledge of the law (i.e. even if you’re, say, an intelligent doctor, you still don’t understand the law). Legal aid has been eviscerated Please write to a) your MP, and b) this guy, and try to persuade them that legal aid should be widely available:

      Chris Grayling
      Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor
      Ministry of Justice
      102 Petty France
      London
      SW1H 9AJ

      As to your point, why do people require lawyers, there was a great commentary on this a few years ago:

      “…The idea that legislation might be drafted in an unambiguous way readable by any reasonably well educated lay person is not new, but neither is it remotely achievable… legislation is complex because human activity, which it seeks to regulate, is also complex, and as a result law is a specialist subject, just as with architecture or medicine. The only way that a paper on new heart transplant techniques could be rendered intelligible would be if the reader had studied the subject — and was hence no longer a member of “the public” — or if the paper were simplified to the point where it was more or less completely unhelpful to a surgeon…

      There are countless legal terms that contain special meanings, and indeed whole legal concepts that are fictions (constructive trustee, for example) that it would be idle to pretend a layperson could understand – any more than they could fully understand the blueprint for a new office tower or, as I said in the letter, a paper on heart surgery.”

      http://web.archive.org/web/20120729192121/http://timesandotherthings.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/understanding-legislation.html

      Sadly, I think we’re howling at the moon: politicians neither understand nor care about the justice system, because the electorate neither understand nor care about the justice system. A serving barrister summarises the problem well, here: http://www.legalcheek.com/2015/01/1750-head-magna-carta-summit-hijacked-legal-aid-event-costs-tenner/

      “I have absolutely *zero* respect for people politicising this. The Labour party froze legal aid in 1997. Then they cut it. Then they cut it. Then they cut it again. Indeed it is arguable that the entire problem is a product of the legal aid ‘budget’ (of which no detailed breakdown has ever been asked for or provided) is wasted on unnecessary public sector employees put there by the Labour party.

      I am extremely upset by the latest round of cuts. I was also extremely upset by the other rounds of cuts. I am getting fed up to the back teeth with lying socialists with short memories trying to pretend that a centre ground Tory and Liberal coalition is somehow wholly to blame for this national scandal.

      Where where the socialists at the criminal Bar exactly? When their supposedly amazing party was doing all of this cutting? Where was Emily Thornberry then?

      Please do not politicise this. Please stop “weaponising” failures in public services. Because we the public are not convinced. We don’t care who was to blame – we want someone to fix it.”

      • Ross – I think you’ve misunderstood my point. I’m not preaching to the converted, what I’m saying is that it should not be necessary to have a Lawyer to get justice. What if legal aid was available to all, but you get a particularly poor lawyer, why should that prevent you getting justice?
        The judges are there to ensure justice is done, that’s their job, why is everyone arguing that they can’t do that? Perhaps it’s the case that judges can’t ensure justice, but that isn’t an argument for legal aid, it’s an argument for getting rid of the poor judges.

        • Ah, ok – thanks Brian, I’d totally misunderstood what you were suggesting, you’re right.

          I’d have to respectfully disagree though: the law is incredibly complex, because life’s rich tapestry of human endeavour and relationships are incredibly complex. Look at what a lawyer does when they’re representing a client: they have to identify the issues, determine the relevant legal rules (statute, precedent, procedures, et al), apply those rules to their client’s case, construct an argument, then articulate that argument in court.

          For a client to run their own case, they need to effectively get a legal education first, or – as you propose – the judge has to start from scratch on the day of a hearing. You’re not seriously suggesting that a judge, in the limited time available in court, is going to be able to do all of the tasks above, surely? You can’t expect judges to add “teach parties the law of England and Wales, in all its complexity” to the tasks they have to do in court each day?

  23. I see the Dread Christopher Booker is being excoriated again by the Family Court/ Court of Protection establishment for exposing the truth and stating something is wrong.

    Unfortunately the DCB has a track record of accuracy and embarrassing the authorities.

    In two cases recently a child was sent home and in another released from a mental hospital.

    We have no means of knowing weather is judgements cited here were actually accurate since the judge concerned has a track record of inaccurate judgements , just accepting what the SS and their tame experts are saying.

    However for imprisoning a grand mother for seeing her granddaughter and going to considerable effort to kidnap her from a Ken Dodd concert deserves his banning from the Family Court.

  24. The majority of family court lawyers advise their clients to “go along with social services” and not to oppose applications for an interim care order on their children.Noone needs a lawyer to run up a white flag and surrender ;parents could do that themselves if they wanted to but most in fact do not want that at all.
    You do not need a lawyer to say you are a good mum or dad or to call friends and relations as character witnesses (rarely allowed by legal aid lawyers).
    The complications of the law rarely come into it in the majority of family court cases with lawyers who often exclude their own clients from the court ,do a deal with the L.A and then announce to their clients “sorry you have lost your children!” .What a sorry bunch most of those shysters are……………

    • No. The majority of family lawyers sometimes advise their clients not to contest an interim care order for sound tactical reasons. No doubt a few do so for an easy life or some other invalid reason, but most of us advise this on occasion when it is actually tactically the best way forward in the long run. Fighting an interim battle at the outset can sometimes be a bad move. However most of us will a) fight an application for an interim care order regardless of our advice if our instructions are to fight and b) will fight an application and recommend to fight an application if there are prospects of succeeding in that attempt.
      Lawyers should not be surrendering on behalf of clients without instructions and I have rarely seen them do so – in fact I’ve never knowingly seen a lawyer conceding something without instructions (for obvious reasons as I wouldn’t know what they were) but I have only rarely seen an interim contest conceded where I think it should not have been. I’m realistic Ian, it does on occasion happen – but it is wrong to frighten people into thinking it is common or inevitable. If your lawyer is not acting on your instructions then challenge it.

      • Lucy,I can only go by the accounts of parents who phone or email me every single day.I have dealt with two or three new cases plus double that number of follow up calls daily at all times of the day or night over the last 10 years,.Despite a fairly ruthless cross examination by phone by myself to find out unfavourable facts about these parents in order to help them better to defend themselves , not one of those callers with legal aid lawyers(apart from Brendan fleming) told me that they were allowed by them to contest an interim care order.Some were told to concede but most were told to neither concede nor agree( which in effect amounted to conceding.) as otherwise the judge might make “findings” against them.
        The idea that mostly ill educated clients “instruct” their solicitors is a myth as they nearly all do what their lawyers tell them often under the threat that they will no longer be represented if they do not follow legal advice.
        Quite often parents are told to wait outside the court in a little room and cannot give evidence at all.You will probably be reading about a typical such case in the Telegraph on Sunday 15th !
        I tell parents to fight every step of the way preferably representing themselves after listening to the excellent videos you made to help litigants in person !There have been enough successes to justify this advice though I always warn parents that they are four or five times as likely to lose as to win but those odds are not too bad considering that overall not one in four but only one in four hundred applications for care orders are refused ! (judicial statistics)

        • Well, I’m always wary of blanket advice. And “always fight” represents just that. Sometimes fighting is the wise thing, sometimes it is not.

          I suspect Ian that you deal with a particular type of parent who is not representative. I think it skews your perspective.

          And cross examination by phone will not tell you anything much without sight of the documents. It is a very dangerous basis upon which to proceed.

          • Every parent I talk to is desperate to keep or at least have contact with their child. They often feel battered and beaten so I help them recover their fighting spirit because if they don’t fight they don’t win;That does not mean showing aggression it means applying the right tactics
            IF I interrogate parents it is to find out the weaknesses in their case and the only paperwork I am interested in is any judgement that has been made and also the position statement of the local authority.
            I admit that I detest courts that remove babies at birth for risk of emotional abuse from mothers who have not committed any crime but who are thereby dealt the worst punishment that any court can impose.To that extent and that extent only my views might be skewed …….

          • The only papers you are interested in is a judgment and the positions statement of the LA? And you consider yourself in a position to be advising parents about the correct tactics and the best way of keeping / recovering their children? Why would you wilfully deny yourself of sight of THE EVIDENCE (even if that is only so you can debunk it)? How could you views NOT be skewed? And how could your advice possibly be reliable?

          • I usually start from the premise that the allegations in the position statement of the L.A are valid! They very rarely justify long term fostercare and never justify forced adoption.
            I can only say that the “evidence” in cases handled by the Professional losers who call themselves lawyers is mostly non existent.Clients are advised/ordered not to oppose interim care orders ,not to call any witnesses,and told finally that their chances of avoiding long term care or forced adoption are miniscule.That is where I step in and in around 25% of cases get the kids returned or at least get contact reestablished.
            Not a fabulous record but a lot better than that of supine family court barristers.

          • If I could select my clients I might have a 25% hit rate. But as it happens I fiercely defend each client for whom I am instructed regardless of the strength of their case. I also consider it my duty to give them clear and honest advice even if that advice is hard to hear.

          • Despite our differences of opinion Lucy I reckon you are probably one of the “good guys” !

  25. Thank you for bringing up this issue.

    Christopher Booker reports very irresponsibly in my experience . He has reported on a cases that I was involved with [edited] an entirely ‘one-sided’ predictable rant. In this case the two ‘high conflict personality’ parents were locked into a bitter, protracted and highly distressing battle over arrangments for their children. Mr Booker reported verbatim the (delusional) beliefs of 1 parent, but didn’t even bother to interview parent 2, check any facts of parent 1’s allegations or attempt to do a ‘balancing exercise’ of any kind.

    [edited] The publication of these articles pushed 2 equally paranoid, bitter and hostile parents into ever more entrenched positions and ensured that they were completely unable and unwilling to contemplate the impact of the situation on themselves, or on their children . Both parents [edited] presented as very ‘high conflict personalities’. They both needed substantive therapy and support to be able to successfully co-parent and to stop emotionally harming their children. I believe we would have got them into that needed therapy but for Mr Bookers [edited] articles which came at ‘exactly the wrong time’. Not helpful – (to say the least).

  26. […] further this from Pink Tape in 2011. And again, in […]

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