You can run but you can’t hide

This is a guest post by Sarah Phillimore, who blogs at Child Protection Resource.

NB I will allow comments on this post as I usually do, but I will not permit comments which are offensive or insulting (robust challenge is ok as ever) and I will not permit comments which I consider are or may be impermissible or inappropriate for legal reasons.

 

The sad case of Rebecca Minnock has provided manufacturers of stilts for nonsense with a bonanza couple of weeks. See this post from the Transparency Project if the details of this case have escaped you so far.

Various online groups have unleashed a tsunami of ill-informed and prejudiced opinions against fathers and male judges, their view appearing to be that as women give birth and nurture their child, women are better parents and if they say the father of their child is an abuser, then he probably is, court judgments be damned. Into this fray steps Maypole Women, offering the view of one of their volunteers ‘Karen’ to explain why Rebecca Minnock was on the run : Rebecca Minnock on the run. In brief, this is because the family courts refuse to recognise the importance of primary carers.

No further information about Karen is offered so I can only hope that her qualifications, expertise and experience in child development, law and psychology are impressive, given the confidence with which she asserts some very broad and bold propositions. Nor does Karen want to distract us from her opinions by providing any support for them, via links to any reported cases or published research. But Wikipedia does get one mention.

So if I am about to be very unfair to Karen in my analysis of her argument, if I have actually missed some recent and seismic shift in either law or child psychology I am happy to apologise and admit I was wrong. Disclaimer: there is so much in this article that I think is wrong, I haven’t attempted to debunk each and every example of such wrongness. Please don’t assume that if a particular assertion by Karen goes unchallenged, it means I agree with it. Because I almost certainly don’t.

General points

First, some general points. Karen makes a half hearted stab at reassuring us that she isn’t just talking about ‘mother’s’ as primary carers – family courts are going against nature, ‘whatever the sex of the primary carer’. But Karen is not being honest. It is stated explicitly elsewhere in this article that you only qualify as a ‘primary carer’ if you have a uterus:

The over-riding focus of ‘equality’ obliterates the history of all mankind, the very nature of mankind, in which mothers are primary carers biologically and, whether by nature or nurture, usually psychologically too. 

Way to go family courts! Even your most florid detractors have not previously claimed that you ‘obliterated the history of all mankind’. Any how. At its beating heart, this article revolves around the psychological frailty of some women, who have identified with the role of mother to such an extent that any perceived threat to that status is a threat to their intrinsic well being. Not only must this frailty be recognised and respected argues Karen, it should be honoured and must be reflected in the development of family law and policy.

Karen describes these women thus:

What parent dares put their child first, in the centre of their heart, when the pain of loss – not just of your child, but also of your main purpose and identity in life – can be so devastating?

Because some women react to parenthood in one kind of way does not mean that all women do, or should. It certainly does not mean that we permit law and policy to develop to suit the psychological dysfunction of a minority.

‘Primary care’ is described by Karen as the ‘continuous mental process of overseeing, organising, knowing, caring, safekeeping and reassurance’. No one else is capable of understanding the ‘inner world’ of this primary carer. This primary care function is ‘fundamental to the wellbeing of the primary carer’.

This model of parenting described by Karen is dysfunctional. That doesn’t mean I am suggesting those who practice it are mad or unpleasant or trying to do anything other than their best. I am saying that it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work for two reasons: first, it is a potentially absurd and dangerous elevation of parenting to an unsustainable gold standard which simply isn’t achievable for the vast majority of parents who have anything else at all going on in their lives.  If you have to ‘continuously’ oversee, organise etc one child, where do child two and three fit into this? Where do your relationships with your family, friends and partner? Your work? Your hobbies?

Second, by putting an emphasis on how this role of the continuous overseer is  ‘fundamentally’ important for the wellbeing of the primary carer, is neither healthy nor helpful. I suggest there is a real risk here of simply conflating what is right for a child with what the primary carer thinks is right for her. If we accept that ‘self-efficacy’ (defined as people’s beliefs about how they can exercise influence over events that affect their lives) is something to strive for, given its positive impact on people’s sense of wellbeing, then we need to be concerned about anything that is likely to detract from that – such as setting up a child as simply a means to an end, by providing a primary carer with her identity.

Madeline Levine, an American psychologist and author of ‘Teach Your Children Well’  noted that there is a danger here of confusing ‘over-involvement’ with ‘stability’ and promoting the view that it is both good and noble to sacrifice yourself for your child. The children however, say something different here.

…you should hear what most kids say about this… while you think you’re giving your kids everything, they often think you are bored, pushy and completely oblivious to their real needs. But lets look at this very simply. If you are willing to give up your whole life and identity, what’s the message you have sent your kid about the value of other people, mothers in particular  

Particular points

Primary care is how every child, in every family, has their needs met. Primary care is a product of society, culture and biology. Primary care, to give and receive is a human right.

Karen’s position here is curious. I last studied child development 20 years ago, but I am not aware that what my OU text book says about other cultures has been challenged. The ‘monotropic’ image of biological mother as pre-eminent and sole ideal figure for infants is by no means universal across cultures. Many cultures pattern child care differently and the relationships that form around a new arrival can take many different forms’ – older siblings, fathers, grandparents, others in same household, nannies and child minders etc. The roles played by these other carers will inevitably dilute or even eradicate the possibility that a child has a primary carer, being that person who ‘continuously’ organises, oversees etc

Looking particularly at grandparents, research supports their significant involvement with raising their grandchild. For example, research jointly undertaken by the University of Hertfordshire and the Family Matters Institute in 2009 found that 60% of grandparents were involved in some form of child care, either on a regular or occasional basis. 28% regularly cared for their grandchildren in the evenings or at nights.

Not only is it likely that many children  will have a wider network of adult carers than simply their mother, it is untrue to suggest that all mothers are automatically in a culturally sanctioned position where they can or wish to be ‘continuously’ providing ‘overseeing, organising, knowing, caring, safekeeping and reassurance’. For example working mothers are now the majority of mothers. The ONS shows that in 2013 72% of married or cohabiting women with dependent children worked; 60% of lone mothers. A probable explanation for this high rate of working mothers is that society is structured in such a way to promote home ownership as every adults’ goal and yet homes are so expensive both halves of a couple must work to afford one.

Mothers working outside the home must devote a significant proportion of their physical and mental energies to something other than their child and must contract out much of this ‘continuous overseeing’ to other people or organisations.

Take a personal example. My daughter from the ages of 7 months to 3 years spent her waking hours each week as follows:  40 at nursery, 30 with me and 14 with other carers. Who was her primary carer in this scenario? If it wasn’t me, does that make me any less her mother? Is my understanding of her welfare deficient?

With regard to biology, Karen might be on firmer ground. Mothers are indeed biologically very different to fathers; mothers give birth to children after a gestation period of nine months. Women are more likely to take time off work after birth to take care of children. I do not dispute therefore that pregnancy and birth have more of an immediate impact on a woman’s life than on a mans. A mother often has more opportunity when a child is a baby, to be the one who is primarily aware of and meeting his needs.

It is often argued that it is the mother’s breastfeeding that supports her role as more engaged parent, but given the lamentably low rates of breastfeeding in the UK, this is not very convincing. The NHS Information Centre’s Infant Feeding Survey in 2010 showed that only 12% of infants at four months were exclusively breast fed, dropping to 1% at 6 months.

In any event, childhood spans far longer than then 12 months of babydom or even the 24 months into toddlerhood. Does this initial advantage in the primary carer race for the mother on the basis of her gestating and giving birth, turn into a fixed advantage for the next 18 years? I do not think so. Other adult carers can become attuned to the child’s needs and able to meet them. We all know fantastic parents who didn’t give birth and who didn’t breast feed. Even if one accepts the mother’s superiority by virtue of her biology, this is directly relevant for only a short window in the child’s life.

Primary care is a human right

‘Primary care’ is not a human right. You are entitled to argue that it should be, but it currently is not. You cannot sue anyone for breach of your ‘right’ to be a primary carer. A ‘right’ is not simply something that an individual can declare. A ‘right’ exists only if it is recognised by a legal system that will protect and enforce it. Otherwise it is just an irritating and meaningless phrase, used in an attempt to cloak spurious arguments with some degree of legitimacy.

Family law treats child care as a logical transaction, passing a child from one parent to another….The overriding focus of equality obliterates the history of all mankind, the very nature of mankind… the family courts’ lack of understanding of the primary carer function… results in practice that is, at times, barbaric. It is no different to wrenching children from unmarried mothers in the 1960s or from poor mothers in Victorian workhouses’. 

This is nonsense in its purest form – it makes no sense. No one could allege this in good faith who is aware of section 1 of the Children Act 1989 and the panoply of case law which explains and expands upon the clear driving principle of that Act – that the child’s welfare is the paramount concern.

There is no ‘overriding focus’ on equality. There never has been. I find it impossible to understand how anyone in good faith can draw parallels between a legal system in 2015 enforcing an Act which takes the welfare of children as its paramount concern and historical and thankfully long gone stigma against unmarried mothers or the poor. This profoundly inaccurate hyperbole is neither convincing nor helpful. The courts were not proposing to ‘wrench’ Rebecca Minnock’s son away from her. The courts were simply saying that if she persisted in making up allegations against the father and refusing to allow her son a relationship with him, that would  have an impact on how often and in what circumstances she would be allowed to have contact with her son, to protect him from her emotionally abusive behaviour.

Research shows women make false allegations in 2% of cases / How does the court know the allegations were false?

What research? What cases? We don’t know because Karen doesn’t tell us. I would be interested to know what she is talking about because my experience over 15 years in the family courts suggests that the percentage of allegations either fabricated or exaggerated is significantly higher than 2%. In this case however, the court found that the mother had ‘positively invented’ allegations against the father so presumably she is one of this 2%. Not according to Karen. Just because she couldn’t prove her allegations in court, doesn’t mean they are false.

This is true. Judges are human hence fallible. Mistakes are made. But what alternative system of divining facts does Karen suggest? Shall we ask the neighbours? Cast runes? Or do we entrust that decision to a legally trained professional, who has heard evidence from a variety of sources over many months and made a decision based on that evidence? What system would Karen like to operate if she were subject to serious accusations?

Conclusion

Good parenting is not about continually devoting yourself to understanding and anticipating your child’s every need. To make your own identity contingent on your role as ‘mother’ is unlikely to benefit either mother or child in the long run. Children as they grow need space to find out who they are and what they want. They are unlikely to be able to do this in the shadow of a constant overseer. Parents need to have the confidence to recognise the benefits to their children of a variety of adults in their lives who love them and look out for them. The model of primary care outlined in this article is likely to be a stifling and overly containing model of parenting for the majority of children.

Most of us, most of the time, are good enough parents – and most of our children, most of the time, benefit enormously from having us in their lives. To permit any parent any automatic right to limit or curtail the other parent’s involvement in a child’s life, is simply wrong. And when your arguments act as encouragement for vulnerable women to feel justified in breaking the law, these arguments are not merely wrong, but irresponsible and dangerous.

29 thoughts on “You can run but you can’t hide

  1. This is my comment I placed on Sues Minds

    I still feel its paramount for debate…………..

    I have specifically avoided any response to this whole case on principle that there are still a few holes left to fill, e.g the original lower case judgment, without it speculation would be rife,

    I would further say that we have seen all too often how cases can explode into an almighty battle like we saw with the Ashya King and the “Forced C Section” cases.

    When we or the courts have to resort to publishing the name of a child I feel very uncomfortable with that and while I do see some minuscule merit I tend to sense something along the line has gone spectacularly wrong.

    I feel now we need to revisit the Clayton v Clayton ruling from 2005 and particularly paragraphs 77 and 78

    http://www.5rb.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Clayton-v-Clayton-CA-27-Jun-2006.pdf

    “77. The practical consequence which flows from this judgment is that henceforth it will
    be appropriate for every tribunal, when making what it believes to be a final order in
    proceedings under the 1989 Act, to consider whether or not there is an outstanding
    welfare issue which needs to be addressed by a continuing order for anonymity. This
    will, I think, be a useful discipline for parties, judges, and family practitioners alike.
    If there is no outstanding welfare issue, then it is likely that the penal consequences of
    s.97 of the 1989 Act will cease to have any effect, and the parties will be able to put
    into the public domain any matter relating to themselves and their children which they
    wish to publish, provided that the publication does not offend against s.12 AJA 1960.

    78. Our judgments in this case are likely to have an impact, and must not be
    misunderstood. The fact that the provisions of s.97(2) of the 1989 Act, cease to
    operate after the conclusion of the proceedings does not mean that parents are free at
    that point to draw their children into an ongoing public debate about their welfare or
    other wider issues. The court, after the conclusion of the proceedings, retains its
    welfare jurisdiction and will be able to intervene where a child’s welfare is put at risk
    by inappropriate parental identification for publicity purposes. Quite where the line is
    to be drawn between CA 1989, section 1, and ECHR, Articles 8 and 10, in this
    context remains to be seen, although I venture to think that in practice most parents
    will recognise it. But let those parents who do not be in no doubt that the court’s
    powers under the ss 1 and 8 of the 1989 Act remain, as do its powers to grant
    injunctions.”

    With this Minnock case I still question whether it was right to name the Child, was the child at such imminent risk to justify it, again when Ashya King was names it was “Thought” he was in grave danger and could die within 24 hours, with that sentiment only to be proved wrong once the judgments were published.

    • I suppose the difficulty is that with the benefit of hindsight we might say it wasn’t imminent risk, but at the time all one knows is the child is missing and the mother must be getting increasingly desperate?

      • That’s the other side of the coin, it places those who have to make the ultimate decisions stuck between a rock and a hard place, I am without answers to work out how best to deal with such sensitive matters, I would draw to the tragic case Charlotte Bevan and her new born baby Zaani,

        There was a media frenzie and quite rightly so, we knew most of the crucial facts for that particular case and reasons for the urgency, however with Minnock we only had hearsay and gossip in the very early stages, it made it more difficult to try and piece together the reasons for the publicity, that in itself causes the next barrel of “knows best” blogs to surface like Sarah’s post explains.

        Do we learn lessons from such tragedies or do we keep making the same mistakes, even though the comparisons for Minnock and Bevan are poles apart.

        We seem to be delving into a territory where we are seeing people like Sarah having to sort the wheat from the chaff in order to gain a better understanding of situations like the Minnock case, yet again Sarah’s spot on myth-busting is very welcomed indeed.

        • Jerry I don’t think it is right to say we only had gossip in the Minnock case. The judgments were published with the background on 8 June or possibly 9 June latest. I certainly saw the first two on 9 June and reported on the basis of what they told us. There was and is lots of gossip but in truth the facts are available to anyone who cares to look, and available to any reporter who cares to report them. There was an unquantifiable risk at the time as the child had been whisked away and the purpose and circumstances were unclear. The publicity was because the court needed to find the child as soon as possible before anything irreversible happened – for example physical harm or abduction abroad. The fact that neither of those things happened does not mean there was not a legitimate concern that led the court to decide it needed to take the step of identifying the child and family to secure his safe return.

  2. russell armstrong

    A good post Mrs Loo I think it is high time that a fair representation is put forward not some bigoted pro female/anti male, pro male/anti female rant. Its funny but I left a comment on the maypole website which is still “awaiting moderation”
    Can I place it on this thread as it seem pertinent?

    russell armstrong June 17, 2015 at 8:58 am #

    Having never heard of the “primary carer role/responsibility” argument before I decided to read this whole article which has some interesting points. However one thing did strike me (not abusively though!) is that if the primary carer (in a non abusive type environment) has reservations about the other partners capabilities, why then doesn’t the primary carer work with the other parent to “improve” their capabilities?
    In The Minnock case in question, from my reading of the judgements, it would be my opinion that she was given every opportunity to work with her ex so that Ethan could benefit from both parents involvement in his life. It seems as if she had an element of selfishness about her that transended her role as potential main carer and it morphed into a control issue which then motivated the dad enough to want to seek a decision by the court. In that instance the court steps in and has a higher power than that of even the parents and makes a decision that it deems is fair.
    If Miss Minnock (and other primary carers who find themselves in that position) fail to work effectively with their ex to a mutually acceptable position (because of their so called “fear” of “giving away” some of their the primary carer role, then they run the real risk of motivating their ex to make a court application and a court coming up with an imposed decision that they will like even less.
    In my opinion.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  3. russell armstrong

    just wanted to subscribe to follow up posts

    • you posted a comment – not sure if you have successfully subscribed to follow up posts. if you haven’t had any emails telling you there have been further comments I guess you weren’t successful!

  4. Karen might like to meet one of my son’s school friends whose mother died when he was just short of three giving birth to his brother – who made it. Both boys were brought up by their father and very successfully too. It was an unusual family where the father was more first among equals than head of the household but it worked. Both boys, now men of 30 and 27, have done well and founded families of their own.

    Karen is, to put it politely, ignorant and prejudiced.

  5. Nick Langford

    That’s a pretty damning dissection of Maypole’s nonsense, and it needed to be said, but it is only fair to point out that Maypole, like Mothers for Justice and some other women’s groups, represents and is made up of very damaged women, whether from experiences in childhood or adulthood, and their understanding of parenting is damaged and dysfunctional as a result. It is inevitable that they have a distorted view of motherhood and almost no conception of fatherhood. What is concerning is that so often it seems to be these groups which are so much the product of damaged, hurt people – and F4J is very much in this category – which have the ear of the media and government.

  6. Robert Whiston

    I’ve read Sarah Phillimore’s article and not only do I agree with her observations but I don’t know how she has managed to be so patient in pointing out the obvious flaws in the points made by ‘Maypole Women’ which, IMO, are so infantile.
    One suspects that Maypole Women have been whirling around their maypole and getting no where – and in the process become a little too giddy as the 2% figure quoted does not relate to false allegations of domestic violence (where it is much higher) but is more likely to be a confusion with Brownmiller’s 1975 book that only 2% of rape allegations are false (and Brownmiller was citing the very unscientific opinions of the female police in a particular New York City rape squad room) (and where we have since learnt it is much higher).

    From a ‘Fathers Rights’ perspective, ‘the sex of the primary carer’ has always been the primary determinator of who gets custody and who gets contact (and the amount thereof), and are unchanged issues since the days of CWOs – and it has not varied with the advent of CAFCASS.
    Time and again since the 1989 Act we have seen courts fail to act when Minnock-esque mothers have refused to pay ball with the children’s father. Perhaps this new development is what disappoints the Maypole Women so much in this case ? (Maybe Munby will make a difference ?).
    With regards to ‘wrenching’ her son away from her, spare a thought for the 80% of the 120,000 custody hearings every year where that effectively applies to fathers.
    And as regards trying to evade ‘contact’ for her son in order to protect him from her partner’s emotionally abusive behaviour (and heavens knows what else) we should bear in mind that children living in households where a father is present come to less harm and are less likely to die.
    Yes, ‘Neglect’ is the largest form of child abuse and is perpetrated in the main by women, i.e. mother; and in homicide terms mothers kill nearly all the children aged under 12 months and most of those aged between 1 and 5 years old. So if women give birth and nurture their child, and women are therefore better parents, so why do they murder their own children more often than fathers ? Why do they starve them and why do they torture them ?

    The very nature of mankind, it is said, gives mothers the biological primacy in the primary care and the caring stakes since time immemorial. But does it ? For that historic narrative of caring to happen and be at all viable (and true) then surely fathers are the true ‘primary carers’ for making it at all possible for that said unit of mother and child. So who is the real primary carers ?

  7. Julie Doughty

    Sounds like Goldstein Freud & Solnit (1970s) to me.

  8. Andrew Maeshall

    All very interesting and depressing. Just seems to me as someone who has just been through the Family Courts system that a root and branch review of everything is required. There is far too much ideology in both Social Services and the Courts. I say this as someone who has worked in commercial ethnographic research and learnt that nothing beats actual behavioural studies preferably caught on video. I think any family dispute concerning children and especially where abuse is alleged or admitted requires cameras in the home and as a must in supervised contact etc. People can act for a day or two but not over a week and certainly not over two weeks or a month. The most important factor is young kids are the most likely to behave naturally in such a filmed scenario and so the courts and everyone can observe actual behaviour rather than allegations, reports and arguments. Of course it is not perfect – you can argue over interpretation of what you see as always but I believe the camera will find it almost impossible to lie about the basic strength of relationships between child and parents. If they’re scared of Dad or if Mum really does not engage or is neglectful then it will be quite apparent vis a vis alcohol problems etc etc. We’re already in a Big Brother world in this scenario, arguably parents have invited the State in by pursuing Legal action, so why not just get the cameras in the moment social services are involved or where there is a parental dispute over Contact etc? In any case any ‘acting’ or modification of behaviour in such filmed scenarios can only be a good thing and another reason why it should be embraced. I would have been over the moon if my home life was filmed and especially my interactions with my son simply because it gives you a foothold outside the hell of argument, allegation and supposition. I think it would also help for Courts to have powers to heavily fine and punish both parents and lawyers who it is proved have lied or over embellished beyond reason.

  9. Sadly false allegations are rife in the Family Courts. The post on allegations of rape here http://www.pinktape.co.uk/rants/does-it-matter-what-we-call-it/ exposes the extent to which women are willing to go to obstruct contact. I say women because in the case of rape it can only be men who are perpetrators, the crime is defined such that only men can commit it.

    There is one poster, “anon”, who alleges she is a victim of rape by her ex partner, but does not seem to have reported this to the police. Presumably her ex-partner is free to perpetrate this crime on someone else and she doesn’t care, or perhaps it wasn’t a crime after all?

    • I don’t think I say it is “rife”, just that it happens. I am going to answer for “anon” here on your second para – there are many many reasons why victims of rape or assaults do not report it to the police either promptly or at all. It is far more complicated than suggesting that either anon does not care about the risk to others or that it wasn’t a crime at all (i.e. she is making it up?). A victim’s first priority is usually to keep themselves and immediate family safe – reporting matters can increase (or can be seen to increase) risk levels. Victims may feel they will not get anyone to listen or prosecute, and at least until recently they would probably have been right.

      • So the alleged victim put the allegation as a comment on a public blog instead of going to the police? Is this trial by media, as Rebecca Minnock was attempting to do?

        If you are a victim of a crime you need to report it to the police. If you don’t or you can’t prove it, then you cannot prove a crime has been committed, which unfortunately is no crime. There is a principle in English law which gets lost in these concerns about alleged victims, i.e. Blackstone’s formulation “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”.

        • No Brian, there will be no trial by media on this blog – either of an alleged rapist or of an alleged victim for making false claims. This is a blog, nobody is being named and nobody will be convicted or found guilty. Anon is simply setting out her experience and nobody’s presumption of innocence is in jeopardy.

    • Robert Whiston

      Yes, I’ve been to that URL and I recommend it strongly to others.

  10. I saw the Maypole Women announcement and it rang with ‘entitlement’. The “me” society without thought of anyone else concerned. Everything about the adults, or I should say one adult, and nothing about the child or their welfare (other than one twisted to fit a gender centric agenda). No thought at all for another parent who must have been frantic for weeks when their child was missing.

    There’s the fact that a leading expert found a child at risk of psychological and emotional harm due to one parent’s behaviour. A court which wasn’t draconian, nor which sought to sever contact, but wished to put in place safeguards to protect a child and their relationships. A door left open to normality if the parent, whose behaviour was unacceptable, would moderate their behaviour.

    I’ve watched organisational announcements with amazement with some being apologists (if not defenders) of child abuse, a form of domestic violence and perjury. If it were men’s organisations doing the same… in essence saying such behaviour is acceptable… there would be a deserved outcry. Instead, you have organisations fanning the flames of entitlement and risking leading their members down a path which (for selfish reasons alone) is fraught with risk for them (and the children concerned).

    I’d add that I’ve seen people write that this was a case where fathers’ rights were upheld and there’s a human rights angle now for fathers going into court. That equally worries me in terms of advice, as this case was not about parent’s rights, but a child’s needs and protecting “their” relationships. Those who go into court pushing ‘their’ rights and believing the courts will hold those rights higher than the child’s needs have missed the point. The mother’s sense of entitlement, beyond her child’s needs are what caused her problems. Learn the lesson people… don’t emulate that behaviour!

    It so happens that where the parents put their children’s needs first, don’t unreasonably denigrate the other parent, promote the child’s relationships and show themselves to be decent, their chances of a good outcome dramatically improve.

    Walk into court with language absent the other parent’s crucial role in the child’s life, and the court may well believe you put your own selfish needs above those of your child.

    So rather than criticise this article by your guest blogger, take a little praise for introducing much needed sanity.

    Michael Robinson
    The Custody Minefield

  11. Sarah Phillimore

    Andrew’s comment about filming is very interesting. My first reaction was an instinctive ‘no!’ but on reflection, I am not sure where we can go from here other than to record more fully parents’ interactions with their children. If people won’t accept the findings of a court, will they accept what they see with their own eyes?

    Hmmm. Almost certainly not, given what I have been reading on the internet over the last few weeks. No doubt people will impose their own flawed and subjective interpretations on a video as they do on everything else.

    I am still waiting for the critics of our current system to tell me WHAT system of dispute resolution they think is better. Are they really, seriously arguing for ‘If I feel something, that makes it ok?’

    I have a horrible suspicion they are.

    • Alternative dispute resolution and mediation only works where both parties are capable of reaching a rational and reasonable place. Some aren’t capable of this, so court is necessary. Absent this, a mediated outcome may not be a good one.

      Aside from Maypole Women, others have made some rather peculiar claims. Harry Fletcher in The Guardian… upon reading that piece you hope this isn’t Harry Fletcher from NAPO. Apparently, indirect contact requires that a social worker be sat in the room??? If your response to this is “eh”, I hear an echo! I hope to heaven the journalist misquoted him.

      Back to alternatives to court and the CEO of National Family Mediation getting rather over-excited in telling the court (as an announcement, not in their blog) that the court must stop proceedings and introduce mediation at this stage. Allegations included that the court doesn’t encourage mediation. The CEO showed a lack of understanding of what happens in court, a lack of realism given the case circumstances and published history, and a lack of wisdom in wading in, in the way she did. Should the head of that organisation (claiming to represent more mediators than anyone else) be challenging the opinion of Mark Berelowitz absent detailed history and observation of the parties? To then take that announcement, and troll it over the #Minnock hashtag on Twitter under a variety of headlines linking back to the same piece (and doing this on 7 occasions) I found distasteful.

      To some extent, I’d expect the comments from Maypole Women regardless of whether I agree with them which I don’t. The comments from NFM who should represent neutrality and objectivity were more shocking. Apparently it should be left to the father and mother to negotiate things when there is a safeguarding issue and serious false allegations raised. Where does one start in mediating allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct? No role for a court investigation here, let alone the court involving itself in cases involving emotional child abuse. That’s the mediator’s job apparently?

      A shame, as we’ve now dropped links on our site to National Family Mediation (replaced with the National Mediation Council… fingers crossed) as a result of what struck us as poor judgment. Others have said they’ve done the same.

      • Gosh, I missed the NFM response to the case. It does seem a surprising case to hold up as an example of where mediation might help.

        • Sarah Phillimore

          That is very disturbing. I am a trained mediator in both family and civil cases. If someone wants to come along and ‘mediate’ about allegations they are making about sexual abuse of a child, I would tell them to take it to the police. How could any mediator be prepared to manage that kind of situation.

          I agree with Mr Justice Baker.

          “But there will always be a substantial number of disputes in which a forensic process is unavoidable, a process that involves consideration of allegations and cross-allegations made by the parties, a judicial analysis of the evidence, the makings of findings and an assessment of the consequences of those findings. There are some people who genuinely believe this can be done by some sort of committee without involving lawyers at all. Such views are profoundly mistaken”

  12. I am Anon . I did report the rape and the domestic violence to the police. Unfortunately PC PLOD from Noddy would have made a better job of investigation. Like actually recorded some physical evidence, checked their database before interviewing the suspect where they would have seen he had a previous record of DV and taken witness statements of DV. Also failed to record rape twice or interview me for three months The police then covered up these failings when I complained so I could not refer them onto the IPCC. The IPCC said they would only investigate if it was in the public interest, which translates into if I can get it into the public domain. These failures by the particular police force have recently been confirmed in a HMIC report I understand there are men who are subject to false allegations BUT there are a number of woman who are not only failed by those who are supposed to protect them they are then vilified in family court and their children given to the perpetrator’s of crime. It’s not just a domestic it is a crime, common assault normally.
    I am currently in proceedings so am limited in what I can say, but Just as I am sure the fathers lobby will keep publicising the wrongs done against them so will I . If will break my anonymity if that’s what it takes, it’s not my shame I do not feel that I am the only Mum having to pay maintenance to a man who raped and assaulted me. By the way I am a feminist , ie I believe in equality regardless of gender or for that matter race, disability etc.

  13. Nicely written. This is one of the ‘extreme’ cases and thus easily identifiable. The problem I’ve found is not when the mother’s behaviour is this extreme, but when there is a similar pattern of behaviour by the mother but on a much less obvious level.

  14. I am so sorry to confuse you .There were two crimes DV which I reported at the time, and the police didn’t bother to record any physical evidence etc . The rape was historic, just like so many victims I couldn’t speak up at the time for a number of reasons . So there was no physical evidence however there was compelling evidence that could prove that it would not have been consensual and medical evidence, which I actually chased up myself when the police failed to do so over a number of months.

    Rather than ping pong would it not be better to accept that actually authorities, including the courts do get it wrong sometimes and work constructively to place a spotlight on the miscarriages of justice. After all I think we actually have more in common, an ex who can lie through their teeth and a judge who either doesn’t care, has their own agenda or is easily hoodwinked. It really isn’t pleasant being told you are a liar when it’s actually the other parent who is and your relationship with your children are at stake. Or perhaps the family justice system is overloaded, not fit for purpose or something else?

  15. Sarah Phillimore

    Anon, of course I accept that the courts get it wrong. Show me anything involving fallible human beings that gets it right all the time.

    It’s always been interesting to me to see – for e.g. – Fathers for Justice and Women’s Aid describe the same system in such diametrically opposed terms. They both cannot be right. The truth is somewhere in between.

    I am sure many mothers AND fathers have left the court system feeling traumatised. And I am sure that in some cases this was because they were utterly let down by a system that didn’t work for them on that particular day, due to poor legal representation or bad judge, or botched investigation etc, etc.

    Just as I am sure many left feeling traumatised because what was hurting them was not ‘the system’ but their own inability to recognise and thus take responsibility for the decisions they had made that hurt their children and themselves.

    We can’t do anything to force adults into getting help for their psychological problems – they have to want to sort that out for themselves. But I agree we can and should be working towards the best possible system of justice that we can devise, recognising that we will continue to make mistakes.

    My annoyance with such contributions to the ‘debate’ by Maypole women and Christopher Booker etc is that they continue to divert attention away from what we need to do and attempt to focus it instead on utterly pointless and divisive polemics which are nothing more than prejudice and assumption dressed up as respectable argument.

    so I hope I don’t seem harsh or dismissive to those who have suffered abuse, either from a partner or in the system. But I hope you can understand where my annoyance comes from. I don’t think you deal with one injustice by trying to promote another.

  16. […] This is a guest post by Sarah Phillimore, who blogs at Child Protection Resource. NB I will allow comments on this post as I usually do, but I will not permit comments which are offensive or insult…  […]

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