Oh Hemming!

It is the most de rigeur of popular expletives. What the Hemming has he been up to now? Need I waste my tippy tappy fingertips on typing an explanation? Thought not.

So, I will just point out this excellent post of Carl Gardner’s on Head of Legal, and juxtapose it with a tweet from Fathers4Justice that landed in my twitter stream today. Some commentators today have suggested that Hemming is acting in an unprincipled fashion. I think that is right insofar as Carl points out the very important principles he is flouting (rule of law). But those of us who have been following Hemming for a little longer know there is a background to all of this recent fascination with footballers and other celebrity injunctions. Hemming is pursuing another point of principle. An equally serious problem when viewed from the other end of the telescope is that he is so focused on the broad principle that he forgets the harm he may do to the children involved in the individual cases.

I have no doubt Hemming will seek to use this whole fiasco to further his family justice campaigns. as foreshadowed by the F4J tweet.

Hemming may have valid points in individual cases about actual or potential miscarriages of justice. But how do we know he is right and is he really any more likely to be right than the judge who has seen, heard and read all the evidence? The really crucial question to ask about Hemming as self appointed arbiter of all our privacy is – What if his judgment is wrong? If the judges cannot do it, who can protect the vulnerable against the excesses of an MP who simply does not know when to shut up? A judge can be appealed. Hemming is a runaway train.

PS IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MANY TIMES THE PRESS DESCRIBE IT AS A SUPERINJUNCTION – THE INJUNCTION IN QUESTION IS STILL NOT A SUPERINJUNCTION. You can tell this because the press were allowed to report it’s existence. This is not hard to grasp. This is an indicator of the standard of media coverage.

24 thoughts on “Oh Hemming!

  1. Hemming if he is successful ultimately in lifting the secrecy of the family law system will have tremendously boosted the protection and outcomes for children.

    A family law system operating behind closed doors leads to wholesale laziness, complacency and an inept system that fails children.

    Institutionalised secrecy is a charter for poor practice and poor results for those who unhappily are involved in family law (the third division).

    The argument that having ‘all’ cases (tens of thousands each year) dealt with openly and transparently will cause children harm is ludicrous and merely another example of the lazy, self interested thinking of many of those involved in the family courts.

    The behaviour of those entering an open family law system will increase substantially as false allegations and recalcitrant behaviour would be exposed, rather than hidden and encouraged behind closed doors.

    What is crucial and of vital importance to children is results and a system that works for them, which can only happen if those who work in the family courts are subject to proper and on-going scrutiny.

    Well done John Hemming MP.

  2. It is shocking, but of the highly significance that the legal/judicial Family Court establishment has reacted with hysteria to John Hemming’s attempt to end the use of all-embraising injunctions in the Family Court system to keep the parents quiet and cover up scandal. They are rapidly treating him as a bogey-man and a hate figure.

    The Blessed St.John of Yardley has for several years campaigned to end the total secrecy of the Family Court system, not changed since the in theory opening two years ago and his team of McKenzie Friends tried to represent families and organise appeals for them when the expensively paid legals have nurdled and lost or were losing cases for tem at vast public expense.

    This affair started by John Hemming Outing on the floor of the House of Commons a certain northern council noted for being a laughingstock and surrounded by scandal not just in child protection matters.

    Now you would have thought all those Family Court barrs would be supporting him in view of the nature of this case which is also one of the fiendish and dastardly Christopher Booker’s stories.

    A mother has fled to Ireland to have her baby, [edited] She was threatened with imprisonment for speaking in a House of Commons committee room to the head of CAFCASS, naming the [edited] council concerned.

    But how was a Family Court Superinjunction granted by the judge in the case?

    If the details of her story are true and came out then there would be the gravest possible scandal which would be a headline story in the media with said northern council taken for failing in its child protection duties.

    So they got an injunction.

    It’s Serious Case Inquiry time.

  3. TrentCare Lawyer

    Dick and Chambers have (conveniently?) overlooked the research carried out by Julia Brophy and her colleagues into the views of a number of children who have been through care proceedings. They were asked whether they would have been willing to talk openly, as they in fact did, to social workers, guardians, solicitors, experts and judges, about their experiences if that information may be published by the media. The vast majority said they would not.
    How, therefore, are the professionals tasked with ensuring the welfare of children is protected and promoted to carry out their professional duty when the information they need would not be forthcoming?
    The family courts are not secret. They never have been. The media has always had a right of access to the Family Proceedings Courts (Magistrates Court), but rarely exercises it. All parties in care proceedings are entitled to free legal aid for representation by specialist Solcitors and Barristers regardless of means or the merits of their case. All Solicitors, Barristers and Judges are subject to professional regulation. There is a well developed complaints and disciplinary system, and a highly developed system of appeals against juddicial decisions.
    John Hemming pursues an agenda for his own ends, whatever they may be. He clearly believes they are more important than adhering to the rule of law. For an MP, a member of the law-making body of the UK, that is a surprising and unfortunate attitude to take. For if he was right to do what he did yesterday, he gives the green light to anyone and everyone to disregard and break the law whenever and wherever they chose.
    That is not democaracy. It is anarchy.

  4. Nature gave us tongues to use not gags! If you don’t like what you see on tv or read in newpapers either switch off,stop reading newspapers,sue for slander or libel ,but don’t call the police or the judges !
    There is only ONE country in the whole world where government agents regularly take away mothers’ new born babies and toddlers for” risk of emotional abuse”,and threaten those mothers with jail if they protest publicly .
    That country is THE UK !!!!! What shame,what disgrace,the cradle of democracy the only country in the world to kidnap children and legally gag their mothers ! Who should be punished ? Well,I say the social services and the judges who misinterpret the much derided Human Rights Act and use it as an instrument of repression by the State instead of the protection of family life that it was clearly intended to be !

  5. Mr Hemming compares prosecuting Twitter users with ‘jailing people who criticse the King of Burma’. I read this in a newspaper so it must be true. Has anyone told the Burmese Generals that they’ve got a king? There’s me thinking Aung San Sy Ki was an icon but no it’s a king that gets you locked up.
    More seriously, well put, Trentcarelawyer.

  6. ‘TrentCare Lawyer’ takes at face value a small tilted survey of children designed to elicit the answer it then comes to, how typical of the laziness of thinking by many within the system.

    If you tell a child their story with all the particulars and photo’s will be spread across the front pages of ‘The Sun’ or allude to this, then you will get the obvious answer.

    We all know this would not happen in the tens of thousands of cases each year that pass through the family courts but those who back the secrecy of the courts use misled children (despicably) to back their argument for continued non scrutiny of the widely acknowledged incompetent family law system.

    Again that argument relies on the hugely flawed premise that social workers, guardians, solicitors, experts & judges get the true picture from children presently most of the time. A bit much to swallow for those of us who have witnessed regularly the incompetence and institutionalised bias’s of plenty of these professionals as they go about their business.

    Only open and transparent family courts will raise standards vastly and substantially improve results for children.

  7. Well Pink tape the proof is in the pudding, google Angela Wileman and read my story. If it was not for John Hemmings having taken an interest in my story and collected my paperwork i would not be where i am now…living back in the UK with both my children and with no interference from child protection or courts. Explain that if it was not an injustice?

    • I have no reason to doubt that John Hemming has given his time to be helping you out, but your comment doesn’t really address the subject matter of my post, which was whether there was justification for Hemmings actions in Parliament the other day. If Hemming is the self appointed judge of which mothers are good mothers and deserve his help – what happens if he judges you wrong?

  8. Children who are asked “would you like your families affairs all over the newspaper will always repl no in the majority of cases.If however the same children were asked “Do you think it right that if mothers have their children taken away by social services then the mothers should be forbidden to complain in public and put in prison if they do?” will answer no to that question too !
    So,,keep the courts closed but let the parents complain to the media and anyone else they choose .

    • If the parents can complain to the media and anyone else they choose in what sense are they closed? And in what sense are they not putting families affairs all over the newspapers? Not sure what your point is.

  9. I wonder if TrentCare Lawyer has ever had to make a complaint about a solicitor or can think of any judge who has been disciplined; he or she has certainly never had the pleasure of being a party to family court proceedings. The gulf between the users of the system and its providers never ceases to amaze me – there can be no other industry which has so little understanding of and so much contempt for the people who pay the wages.

    Julia Brophy (a feminist who opposes shared parenting because it disempowers women) asked 50 children a leading question and received the required answer; she played the same trick the Labour Government did, by presenting open justice as the loss of privacy and the intrusion of the media. It would be very simple to find another 50 children who had been through both public and private proceedings and who would support a fully open and accountable system; some of those children, like Winona Varney and Tammy Coulter have campaigned for open justice.

    There is no evidence that secret justice protects children (and plenty of evidence to suggest it harms them) and no evidence that children in open jurisdictions are harmed – open justice does not mean that children will be routinely identified in the press.

    And the answer to Lucy’s question is that if Hemming’s judgement is wrong nothing happens; if the judge is wrong you lose your children. Having experienced numerous judges (personally and on behalf of others) I’d rather take my chances with Hemming.

  10. If you read the Children’s Commissioner research study you will see that no-one told the young people interviewed that their stories would be splashed all over the papers. That was not the purpose of the research at all.

  11. It’s a complete red herring to suggest that John Hemming MP wishes to appoint himself as a Judge of any any case. Obviously he does not. To suggest he does is perhaps an indication of the weakness of one’s argument.

    He is simply asking for openness and transparency of the Courts so that an elite cabal and its hangers on are open to scrutiny by those they are meant to be working for, the public.

    • I’m sorry but it’s not a red herring: a Judge decides based on all the evidence filed and submissions made that it’s not appropriate to name claimant in an application for a privacy injunction. Hemming disagrees and considers it appropriate for him to overrule the court by publishing the name anyway via Parliament. How is that not setting himself up as a self appointed judge?

      He is NOT “simply asking for openness and transparency of the courts…”. He is acting upon his own opinions (informed by only partial information about the case) and taking the law into his own hands. Which is quite extraordinary for a Parliamentarian.

      Incidentally the term “elite cabal” might just as much apply to Parliament as it does to the judiciary / legal profession, but that’s a whole different argument.

      There is a reason that the judicial arm of the constitutional triad is not elected – it is to protect against the whim of individuals who are interested in grabbing votes or publicity. That they do not have to bend to the will of any person or pressure in order to remain in office is a safeguard not a weakness.

  12. If the law is obviously an ass, a laughing stock as is the case with the footballer we should not mention, then to blame John Hemming MP is a futile exercise in shifting blame.

    When millions in this country knew who it was and 75,000+ had tweeted about it, a Scottish Sunday Newspaper had it on its front pages and the rest of the world outside of England & Wales had access if they were bothered – For the legal profession to heap derision on an MP who points out the nonsense of the judiciary is an avoidance of the reality.

    A reality that shames the legal profession and makes them the butt of numerous jokes, further scorn and reveals to all the backwardness and self protection that infests the system.

    I’m afraid to suggest that John Hemming MP in any shape or form wants to be a self-appointed Judge in the case of mothers or any other person is a red herring and a whopping one at that.

    When the likes of John Prescott (who has had his own well documented dalliance/s) are wheeled out on C4 News to bluster in support of the judiciary, then we all should know their argument is lost and and what’s more ridiculed.

    The lawyers for the footballer who shall not be mentioned who were instructed to put a lid on things, could not possibly have done a more magnificent job in publicising his errant ways by trying to pressure Twitter – How could they have been so naive, stupid and downright irresponsible towards their client?

    • Not blaming John Hemming for the difficulties the legal system has had with this one, just scrutinising his approach. With which I don’t agree.

      Incidentally, John Prescott has had to fall back on the judiciary in order to secure transparency in respect of a breach of his privacy and the state’s handling of it (in the form of the police) – the same transparency that many campaign for in family justice. It is Parliament who has failed to sort out the issue of privacy / secrecy in family courts – not the judges, who are just implementing the law given to them – and Parliament needs to sort it out urgently in one shape or form (preferably not by implementing the CSFA 2010). It does no good to blame the judges either!

  13. Nick Langford

    Lucy’s last comment calls to mind Sir Paul Coleridge’s recent speech to the charity Care in which he pointed out that Parliament’s failure to debate and reform family law has made it necessary for the judiciary to introduce their own reforms via precedents like White. He calls for a Royal Commission (the last reported in 1956) and that is something that parenting groups have demanded for years. The recent Family Justice Review is hugely inadequate and won’t restore confidence in the system to the public or to parents – even if it satisfies the workers in the system.

  14. I somehow suspect that the media’s interest in being allowed into the family courts is not to report injustice, but to let them print pages of inside information on what, for example, Peter Andre and Jordan are alleging in their court statements in a residence and contact dispute about their child, or Paul McCartney and Heather Mills in their dispute.

    There are injustices in the family law system, not least of which being the huge time and money it takes to get decisions made; and I am on the side of Mr Justice Munby that where there are genuine cries of injustice that the Court should be open to allowing the Press to scrutinise the proceedings – providing the case is anonymised in some way to protect the identity of the child.

    But it’s quite clear from Booker’s reporting that he considers coming to court to watch the proceedings, or to read the papers to be not commercially viable. I wonder how anyone can have an informed opinion on whether a particular parent has been badly treated if they don’t hear or read any of the evidence.

    In the care cases I have been involved in, I would have been quite happy for a member of the press to have read the papers and heard the evidence in every single one of them, to see if there was any injustice or unfairness.

    As to John Hemmings, I think he was wrong to name the footballer in Parliament, and did so purely to allow the tabloids to run the stories they wanted to run, despite the judgments being clear that the Press had not even made any argument that there was an article 10 public interest in disclosure to be weighed against article 8. Whilst I don’t like the way he goes about his campaign for transparency I think it is a legitimate campaign and an issue well worth debating properly.

  15. Familoo, I am saying that parents when their children have been taken should, like rape victims be free to tell their stories if they choose.If neither parent wishes for public protest or publicity then the courts could remain closed ,but it should be up to the parents concerned to speak if either or both think it necessary.
    This leads me back to the old question that nobody on or off the web has even attempted to answer!
    Why is the UK the ONLY place in the world where parents are gagged when their children are taken, and threatened with prison if they dare to complain publicly?NOWHERE ELSE DOES THIS HAPPEN, SO WHY DO WE DO IT?

    • I’m not qualified in respect of the law of other jurisdictions, but I did wonder if your assertion about the uniqueness of the UK position was correct. I can’t give a comprehensive answer to that but a quick google led me to some information about the Australian system which whilst apparently being more open in respect of attendance at hearings, is equally strict about publishing information and identifying parties. The legislative scheme is obviously different in several respects, but at any rate it doesn’t look as if we are the only country that adopts broadly the same approach (link). I don’t know if there re others apart from Australia.

  16. “Why is the UK the ONLY place in the world where parents are gagged when their children are taken, and threatened with prison if they dare to complain publicly?NOWHERE ELSE DOES THIS HAPPEN, SO WHY DO WE DO IT?”

    It is because of the cosmic mega-scandals of the late ’80’s and early ’90’s.

    Also because of attempts by councils to cover up failure to act from a case in 1988.

    There is a powerful vested interest by judges and even senior judges to cover up that there is severs candal in the Family Courts nad crazy decisions being taken.
    This includes the cover-up of abuse.

    The front must be maintained that all is well in the Family Courts.

    If the parents go to the press we are into headline news and scandals as in the above era.

    But this time the judges get it in the neck as Family Courts now exist and it isn’t all in the magistrates courts.

  17. I quote ‘If Hemming is the self appointed judge of which mothers are good mothers and deserve his help – what happens if he judges you wrong?’
    My answer is simple..this happens ALL THE TIME to mothers by social workers and Judges.To be capable of judging someone you have to be a compassionate person, know and have exerienced the human fear and consequences of the ounishment which follows.I could safely say that judges have not got a clue because they are not from a background or have first hand experience of what is classed as normality amongst the public.It is well known that childrens services will specifically ask for a judge to deal with a case because they know how easy it is to get a court order.

  18. In all the excitement I forgot there is another one.

    SS Depts will ask for a judge whom they know to be specifically sympathetic to whatever they are trying to do, and will cultivate contacts with the court staff in order to do this.

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